‘Worst Colleges’ Ranking Shines Bad Light on New England Universities

Surrounded by college students, President Barack Obama signs a Presidential Memorandum on reducing the burden of student loan debt.
Surrounded by college students, President Barack Obama signs a Presidential Memorandum on reducing the burden of student loan debt. –Jacquelyn Martin/AP

New England universities typically rank high on thoseannualrankings of the best American colleges. The latest exercise in college ranking also includes regional universities – but it’s examining the worst in America. And no school ranks as highly (which is to say, as poorly) as Brookline-based New England Institute of Art.

Rather than the typical top college ranking, Washington Monthly analyzed the colleges that provide the least value to their students by looking at metrics related to loans, student debt, and the quality of education.

In particular, they examined net price (tuition minus grants and scholarships), average student debt, the “cohort default rate’’ (the percentage of freshmen that default on student loans within three years of beginning to repay them), and graduation rate, according to the magazine.

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With low metrics in all of those categories, New England Institute of Art topped the list of worst colleges. Here’s the federal data Washington Monthly used to back up that low score:

“Taking those four measures and weighting them equally shows students would be well served to avoid the New England Institute of Art, a private for-profit college, where the typical net price is $29,700, median debt is $30,600, 16 percent of borrowers default on their loans, and just 36 percent of students graduate.

Yikes.

New England Institute of Art pushed back on the rankings on Wednesday.

“We are not clear on the methodology used to determine these rankings and we were not contacted to provide information for this purpose,’’ Devra Pransky, senior director of communications at the Art Institutes, said. “We do not believe that Washington Monthly magazine’s college rankings accurately reflect the value we deliver to our students.’’

That school wasn’t the only regional one to perform badly in the rankings. Becker College, a private nonprofit located in central Massachusetts, was the sixth worst college.

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