Michigan Tech Talks Back: Social Mobility, Return on Investment More Important than Arbitrary Rankings

Campus Fall 2017
Campus Fall 2017
Students are glad to be back at Michigan Tech.

US News & World Report has ranked Michigan Technological University 124th among best national universities and 58th among public national universities. 

US News ranked 311 national universities that offer a broad range of undergraduate majors as well as master’s and doctoral degrees. 

In 2018 US News undergraduate rankings released today, Michigan Tech’s undergraduate engineering programs ranked 70th in the nation, tied with Colorado State University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Oregon State, University at Buffalo-SUNY, Stony Brook University-SUNY, University of Illinois-Chicago and Washington State University.

Michigan Tech was also listed among “A+ Schools for B Students.”

But Is That What Really Matters?

The University’s president questions some of the assumptions of the US News ranking. 
“As a recent article in Politico pointed out, US News and World Report rankings tend to give a higher score to universities that favor wealthy students,” said Michigan Tech President Glenn Mroz.  “We are proud that more than a quarter of our freshmen come from limited financial means, qualifying them for federal Pell grants.  A bachelor’s degree from Tech will put them smack dab in the middle class within four to five years after graduation.  While we appreciate the recognition of a US News ranking, but in the end, we’re not going to give up on those students to chase a few points on a rather arbitrary ranking system. We find rankings like Forbes and Money Magazine that measure social mobility and return on investment for an education more telling.”   

In Money Magazine’s latest report on “Best Colleges for your Money,” Money evaluated 2,400 colleges and universities using 27 criteria and winnowed the list to 711 colleges and universities that the publication considers “best colleges for your money.”  Of those, Michigan Tech ranked 91st among all institutions—public and private—and 46th among public universities.

Michigan Tech also ranked sixth in the nation for early career salaries.  Tech’s average early career salary for graduates is $63,400, higher than the median family income of $59,039 released by the US Census Bureau this week.

Social Mobility

A social mobility index released for the first time in 2015 ranked Tech first among Michigan colleges and universities (SMI) and 42nd nationwide. The social mobility index recognizes efforts to increase access to higher education for economically disadvantaged students and families.  

According to US News and World Report, its ranking system rests on two pillars, using quantitative and qualitative statistical measures that education experts have proposed as reliable indicators of academic quality.   Schools are ranked in four categories: national universities, national liberal arts colleges, regional universities and regional colleges. National universities offer a full range of undergraduate majors plus master’s and PhD programs and emphasize faculty research. Michigan Tech is a national university.

Within each category, graduation and retention rates, assessment of excellence (based on data collected from the schools themselves), assessment by peer institutions and by high school counselors, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving are all evaluated.

The US News Best Colleges website includes this advice: “US News recommends that readers think of the rankings as one tool for selecting a college. US News recognizes that prospective students must consider their academic and professional goals, financial resources, scholastic record and special needs when choosing a school.


Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.