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The value of college rankings

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Parents and prospective students are increasingly turning to college rankings that focus on value to help pick a university.

So-called dollars-and-cents tabulations are already the fastest-growing sector of the college rankings industry. And they're about to get more popular—and valuable—if President Obama's plan to rate colleges on their value and affordability, and tie those ratings to $150 billion in federal financial aid, comes to pass, the New York Times reported.

The problem? There's no agreement on how to measure the value of a college. There isn't even an agreement as to what constitutes "value."

Princeton Review, U.S. News and World Report, Forbes Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, The Alumni Factor, Payscale and Kiplinger's Personal Finance all have developed "best value" school rankings. And they all measure different factors, producing wildly different results.

The federal government's proposed value ranking will operate more as a ratings system with no first or last place, education secretary Arne Duncan told the NYT. But it isn't clear how the federal government will evaluate the nation's educational institutions.

U.S. Department of Education officials will hold numerous public meetings and interviews across the country and plan to compile the ratings beginning in the 2015-16. The ratings will be tied to federal aid by 2018.

Photo: Flickr user Jason Bache, CC 2.0

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— By on October 29, 2013, 5:58 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure