A Strange List of “Great Value” Colleges for Undergraduate Philosophy Degrees (Updated)


A website called “Great Value Colleges” has published a list of “100 Great Value Colleges for Philosophy Degrees (Bachelor’s) for 2020.” 

The creators of the ranking only considered U.S. schools where annual tuition is less than $20,000. They then gave those schools points for various factors, with the totals ranging from 5 points for the school ranked 100th to 20 points for the school ranked 1st.

Shiota Chiharu, “Counting Memories”

How does a school get points? This is what I was able to learn of their process: Schools get a point for being accredited. Schools get more points the cheaper their tuition is (4 points if the tuition is less than $10,000 per year, 3 points if the tuition is $10,000 – $14,999, 2 points if it’s between $15,000 and $19,999, etc.). Schools also get a point for each type of graduate degree (MA, PhD) they offer in philosophy (if they do). Then there’s the “20-year return on investment” criteria, based on data from Payscale, with ROIs above $600,000 getting 5 points, and smaller ROIs getting proportionately fewer points. Lastly, there’s what they call the “wow factor”, with 1 point awarded “for each unique feature or program that ‘wowed’ us.”

In other words: they take a selection of some of the various factors that might enter into one’s decision-making about where to go to school, along with some that might not, and combine and weight them in a seemingly random manner. (It’s not even clear whether, for state schools, they consistently used in-state or out-of-state tuition rates.)

Of course, this bizarre methodology is not stopping schools from bragging about being on this list (which is how the list came to my attention). Nor, I’d bet, is it stopping you from being curious as to which schools did well on it. So, without further ado, here are the top twenty-one schools on the list (note: schools 13-21 each received 13 points, but for some reason ties are not listed as such, and it isn’t clear what explains the differential ranking of multiple schools with the same score):

  1. Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan
  2. Lindenwood University, Saint Charles, Missouri
  3. San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California 
  4. CUNY – Lehman College, Bronx, New York
  5. St. Cloud State University, Saint Cloud, Minnesota (what about this?)
  6. Rosemont College, Rosemont, Pennsylvania
  7. Minnesota State University-Mankato, Mankato, Minnesota
  8. Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania
  9. CUNY – Bernard M. Baruch College, New York, New York
  10. Florida International University, Miami, Florida
  11. California State University – Sacramento, Sacramento, California
  12. Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida*
  13. CUNY – Hunter College, New York, New York
  14. CUNY – Queens College, Queens, New York
  15. California State University – Stanislaus, Turlock, California
  16. California State University – Long BeachLong Beach, California
  17. University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama
  18. University of Wisconsin – Platteville, Platteville, Wisconsin
  19. Humboldt State University, Arcata, California
  20. San Jose State University, San Jose, California
  21. North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota

You can view the whole list here.

UPDATE: A reader has pointed out that my calling this list “strange” might suggest that I believe that the philosophy departments included on it aren’t good. I certainly did not intend to send that message, and I regret failing to make that clear in the original post. There are plenty of good places to study philosophy on this list. However, the list itself is not a reliable guide to choosing where to study, owing to its problematic methodology and factual mistakes.

[*This post initially mistakenly named Miami as FSU’s town, following the error on the Great Values site. Thanks to a reader for catching that.]

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