Which colleges provide the best return on investment? Colossal resources are expended every year to give prospective students and parents a quantifiable answer. Our annual ranking of America’s Top Colleges, which relies on a complex calculation to assess student outcomes, provides one answer, but there is also a simple alternative: The Grateful Graduates Index.
The GGI ranks colleges by the median amount of private donations per student over ten years. The idea is that the best schools are those that produce successful alums who make enough to be charitable and feel compelled to give back to their alma maters. In many ways the private, nonprofit college business model is all about producing the best crop of future donors.
To level the playing field for schools that produce lots of grateful grads in low-paying fields like education, academia and government, we also factor in three-year alumni participation (how many grads in total give any amount to their school). Thus Minnesota’s Carleton College—with an impressive 46 percent alumni participation and a median donation of $14,876—ranks No. 11, while Harvard, with a $25,122 median donation, ranks No. 24 because it has many more ungrateful grads; only 18.6 percent give back annually. Our rankings, which do not include public institutions, show a number of top schools with a surprising abundance of ingrates: Columbia (No. 28), Carnegie Mellon (No. 51), NYU (No. 101) and Tulane (No. 128) all rank relatively poorly. The GGI for all of the top schools is published in our Top Colleges guide, starting on page 53.
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(This story appears in the 04 September, 2015 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)