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Value Added by Frostburg Education Demonstrated in Two New College Rankings

Two new college rankings studies based on the U.S. Department of Education’s 2015 College Scorecard database have been released – one from the Economist and another from the Brookings Institute. While the rankings use different methodologies, each sought to determine the value colleges add to their students’ earnings potential. The studies compared former students and graduates’ actual earnings to the earnings researchers projected for attendees of such an institution.

Both studies found Frostburg State University enhanced its former students’ earnings potential significantly more than expected for schools of similar type, size and location. The Economist ranked FSU number 101 in the nation of 1,275 four-year non-vocational schools studied, placing FSU in the top 8 percent of such institutions nationwide. Brookings gave FSU a score of 78 of a possible 100 among all four-year schools nationwide, placing FSU in the top 25 percent of all four-year institutions of higher education in terms of value added.

Each rankings system found an FSU education prepared graduates and former students to “over-perform,” earning more than researchers expected at the midpoint in their careers. Brookings estimated that 10 years after enrolling, FSU attendees earned about $6,000 per year more than expected. The Economist estimated that 10 years after enrolling, FSU attendees earned more than $5,000 per year more than expected.

These rankings are a significant deviation from traditional college rankings, such as the annual list released by US News and World Report, which order colleges based on the perceived quality of the institution based on such metrics as reputational surveys from peer institutions, student SAT and ACT scores, grade point averages, alumni giving, selectivity of admissions and other data.

A 2002 economics paper by Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger suggested that highly qualified students who attended less-selective institutions tended to earn the same amount as their peers from elite universities.

The new rankings systems from the Economist and the Brookings Institute attempt to remove student quality from the rankings equation to determine the specific value added by the institution. In other words, these new rankings are specifically designed to allow comparisons between significantly different institutions about the quality of a specific college’s education and student services.

Neither rankings system purports to be a perfect measure of the value added by a college or university. Both are limited by shortcomings in available data.

Brookings pointed to incomplete coverage in the data (College Scorecard earnings information is drawn only from students receiving federal student aid), lack of outcomes data broken down by field of study and the absence of data about what information students actually learn in college.

The Economist also noted that College Scorecard earning information is cut off 10 years after the date a student begins college, “at an age when many eventual high earners are still in graduate school and thus excluded from the sample of incomes.” It also mentions that maximized earnings are not the only goal of a college education, nor even the most important goal.

To view the Economist report, visit To view the Brookings Institute report, go to

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit or Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.


For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589