Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Research

First Advisor

Robert H. Stupnisky


Rankings of higher education institutions have been developed as a method for evaluating universities and colleges as the competition for students, faculty, and financial support grew stronger (Shin & Toutkoushian, 2011). Historically these rankings relied mostly upon institutional reputation, but recently there has been a call for quantifiable data. US President Obama (2013) discussed the need for a postsecondary institution ratings system that holds universities accountable to provide accurate information related to accessibility, affordability, and educational outcomes. Once a method of rating institutions is developed, the ratings can be utilized to rank similar institutions, which results in a ranking system providing a rubric for comparison. Also, many policymakers within (i.e., administrators) and outside (i.e., legislators who control local, federal, and state budgets) higher education institutions use information provided in rankings to develop policies, thus it is essential that any postsecondary institution ratings system be developed using relevant and reliable data. Furthermore, appropriate statistical procedures must be used as well, to reduce the possibility of policymaker bias playing a role in how data is utilized in a ratings system.

The purpose of this proposed dissertation is to utilize publicly available data provided by the U.S. Department of Education to test competing models of rankings and comparing them to a current popular higher education ranking system: U.S. News and World Report. This comparison will seek to address two research questions: 1) What

institutional characteristics are associated with positive higher education outcomes (i.e., graduation rate and retention rate)? and 2) How does a ranking model using these institutional characteristics compare to the current U.S. News and World Report rankings and the proposed Postsecondary Institution Ratings System model?