A Principal Components Analysis Of The U.S. News & World Report Tier Rankings Of National Liberal Arts Colleges

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Thomas J. Webster

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Abstract

Analyzing the relative contribution of eleven ranking criteria used to construct the 1999 U.S. News & World Report (USNWR) tier rankings of national universities, Webster (2000) found by utilizing principal components analysis the actual contributions differed significantly from the explicit USNWR weighting scheme.  This difference was due to the presence of severe and pervasive multicollinearity.  Although USNWR assigns the greatest explicit weight to academic reputation, Webster found that the most significant ranking criterion was average SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores of enrolled students. This paper extends Webster's study to the USNWR tier rankings of national liberal arts colleges.  The results of this study reinforces Webster's findings about the importance of academically related ranking criteria, although academic reputation appears to carry greater weight for national liberal arts colleges than for national universities.

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