A New College Test

Experts attempt to assess quality by measuring how deeply institutions engage students

A college education is one of the most expensive items most people will ever buy. And virtually every school can supply reams of reasons why its educational program is superior to all others. But how are parents and students to judge which colleges actually provide a high-quality education?

A variety of guides, like U.S. News & World Report's America's Best Colleges, compare institutions on the basis of reputation and resources. But guidance counselors discourage reliance on such rankings, because they feel the criteria are irrelevant and the impact on students can be demeaning. "I don't see a lot of difference between...

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