Chronicle of Higher Ed Analyzes Institutional Peer Data

Each year colleges submit “comparison groups” to the U.S. Department of Education to learn how their institution ranks in terms of finances, enrollment and other measures of data.

The Chronicle of Higher Education analyzed the connections shared between nearly 1,600 four-year institutions in those comparison groups to learn more about the heavy hitters in higher ed and to examine from which institutions other colleges select their “aspirational peers.”

The article in which the data was included clarified what institutions were included in the research:

“The Chronicle also limited its analysis to public, nonprofit, and proprietary four-year institutions classified as research, master’s, or baccalaureate colleges by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. We excluded institutions with undergraduate enrollments under 500. Influence ranks are based on the PageRank algorithm, a trademark of Google. The algorithm weights colleges on the basis of how many others chose them, and how many chose those colleges.”

I was very grateful my school even showed up in a search.

It took me a little while to fully understand what I was looking at. What you’re seeing is how a college perceives its own influence. Naturally, I had took a look at my alma mater, the University of Redlands. As I expected, the U of R’s influence extends to a number of small, private liberal arts schools such as Butler University, California Baptist University and the University of La Verne. As I also expected, the University of La Verne’s own influence extends to the U of R and further out to Occidental College. The circles which represent these institutions are smaller than say, Stanford University, which is near the peak of the scatterplot and has a peer influence that extends to a number of educational titans such as Princeton and Yale. (Curiously, Stanford’s peer influence also extends to a number of University of Phoenix institutions in California.)

This is interesting data to consider especially when you take into account the rising influence of online education and brick-and-mortar institutions transitioning at least some of their curriculum to open courses. It would be valuable to view this same data in a future decade after online education has had a chance to truly grow in popularity.

Where did you go to school? Click on the map and perform a search for your alma mater and see where its influence and peers are.