Smiling Graduates

Analysis by economist and scholar evaluated the validity of consumer ratings for higher education based on results of Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) rated No. 4 for alumni satisfaction in a data study titled “Assessing the Validity of Consumer Ratings for Higher Education: Evidence from a New Survey,” which was published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs.

Jonathan Rothwell, PhD, MA, is the study’s lead author, principal economist at Gallup, Inc., and a visiting scholar at George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy. He developed an individual consumer rating of alumni satisfaction based on the answers to 14 questions posed to college graduates in the Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey, including how strongly they agreed to statements such as:

  • You received a high-quality education
  • You would recommend the educational path you took to other people like you
  • You would not be where you are today without your highest level of education
  • You learned important skills during college courses that you use in your day-to-day life
  • The coursework you took is directly relevant to what you do at work
  • Your educational experiences make you an attractive candidate to potential employers
  • Your education was worth the cost
  • If you had to do it all over again, you would attend the same institution

The Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey is a daily survey of U.S. working-age adults, Rothwell’s analysis was based on responses from 146,345 adults between June 2016 and September 2017. He also used a subset of the sample — 68,589 respondents — who provided the name of the college they last attended that could be linked to the Department of Education’s database. Using the two sets of data, Rothwell implemented validity tests.

“First, I test whether or not consumers who rate their college experiences higher exhibit higher welfare, measured through subjective well-being and personal income. I find that they do,” Rothwell wrote.

“In a second validity test, I analyze how the ratings of other alumni compare to popular rankings from the media and more sophisticated value-added measures from academics in terms of predicting individual satisfaction with a college experience,” he continued.

“I also test whether or not the objective qualities of a school predict individual satisfaction. I find robust evidence that the mean ratings of other alumni strongly predict one’s own rating and that these appear to vary systematically according to the objective qualities of the college, such as those indicating higher teaching quality and better career prospects for alumni.

“I test the robustness of these results using a variety of techniques to address concerns about sample size issues, reverse causality, and omitted variables bias. These checks do not fully resolve the methodological challenges, but they are consistent with the earlier findings.

“I conclude that consumer ratings of higher education offer a powerful and relatively straightforward means to evaluate colleges.”

UMB President Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS, said of the study: “This is recognition of what I already know: UMB is a great place that prepares alumni to improve the human condition and serve the public good of Maryland and society at-large through education, research, clinical care, and service.”

Here are the top 25 colleges for alumni satisfaction, according to Rothwell’s analysis:

  1. Princeton University
  2. Yale University
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  4. University of Maryland, Baltimore
  5. Duke University
  6. University of Virginia
  7. U.S. Military Academy
  8. Cornell University
  9. Harvard University
  10. Northwestern College (formerly Northwestern Business College)
  11. University of La Verne
  12. Colorado School of Mines
  13. Wheaton College (Ill.)
  14. Vanderbilt University
  15. Johns Hopkins University
  16. Emory University
  17. Stanford University
  18. Rice University
  19. Tufts University
  20. Lesley University
  21. Texas A&M University-Kingsville
  22. Azusa Pacific University
  23. University of Chicago
  24. University of California-Berkeley
  25. University of Southern California

The study was the subject of a article on Oct. 21.


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