This month, NJIT first-years and faculty alike were greeted with the news that national rankings of NJIT by numerous third-party organizations including Forbes, The Princeton Review, and Money, have soared over the last year.
The Forbes ranking system is based on seven metrics, weighted as follows:
In 2021, NJIT ranked 189th in Forbes’ national list “America’s Top Colleges,” which lists the top 500 undergraduate institutions in the United States, including public and private colleges. 2022 saw NJIT ranked 75th, rising 114 places and beating all three Rutgers campuses to become the highest ranked public college from New Jersey.
Among all public universities, NJIT comes in 28th this year, up from 89th in 2021, and rose to 58th place in research from 126th last year. Notably, this pronouncement comes after NJIT’s successful push to have its R1 status reinstated after it was stripped earlier this year. In the Northeast, NJIT’s position rose from 78th to 34th.
The Forbes ranking emphasized the college’s research expenditure, amounting to over $165 million last year, and programs such as the URI program that awards $3000 to students to conduct research over the summer. The real-world experience that students can receive by working with faculty in Newark or near New York City was also considered.
This year represented a major step forward in recognition for current students, faculty, administrators, and alumni — it is their work, especially during the difficult years during and just after the pandemic, that has facilitated this change. The upcoming challenge will be to keep this momentum going and continue improving on these statistics for each of Forbes’ criteria.
1. Alumni salary: As a polytechnic university, NJIT benefits from the fact that STEM — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — degrees, especially those in engineering, are among the most valuable today. The World Economic Forum found that the top 25 majors by pay and demand are in STEM subjects. Expanded internship fairs — with positions for all majors — and promotion of co-op programs for students can improve further on NJIT’s average starting salary of around $64,000. Graduates with at least one paid internship receive a starting salary around $15,000-$20,000 higher than those without, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
2. Debt: 93% of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid and 69% receive institutional grants. As NJIT is a public school and the vast majority of students are from New Jersey, the average cost of attending is much lower than that of a private school. However, as students progress in their education, the cost of getting a degree – especially multiple degrees – can add up. This is when a strengthened support system from NJIT to find a paid internship could be extremely helpful. Internships create a simpler pathway between college and a career, as successful students are hired full-time as soon as they graduate. Several companies fund an employee’s master’s degree, which can otherwise run up to tens of thousands of dollars.
3. Graduation rate: Around 65% of NJIT undergraduates complete their degrees within six years, according to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. This number is slightly higher than the national average, which lies around 63%, but far below the 93% six-year graduation rate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which ranks first on the Forbes list. One way to boost this rate might be to offer more hybrid classes for seniors or employed students, so that completing their degree doesn’t require excessive travel every day. Although the class experience cannot be replicated online, allowing practical work to be done on campus and other work at home might make classes more convenient for those in special circumstances.
4. Forbes American Leaders List: This list includes CEOs and scientists who have founded some of the most successful corporations in the world and patented novel products. NJIT’s entrepreneurship pipeline, from VentureLink’s start-up Highlander Foundry to the bachelor’s degree concentration in innovation and entrepreneurship available at the Martin Tuchman School of Management, aims to increase the number of NJIT graduates on lists such as “American Leaders.” However, only time will tell whether these measures are successful in boosting entrepreneurship.
5. Return on investment: This is defined as the difference between the 20-year median pay for a bachelor’s graduate and the 24-year median pay for a high school graduate. NJIT’s average return on investment is $729,000, compared to a total cost of attending of $148,000 according to Payscale. This figure does not account for the financial aid that most students receive. For comparison, top universities can have returns on investment reaching over $1 million. However, NJIT’s statistics are still a cause for celebration — it has the highest return on investment of all New Jersey public universities. A higher return on investment can be achieved by increasing the value of an NJIT degree, in essence, by the school supporting students’ achievements and garnering publicity.
6. Retention rate: This is defined as the percentage of students who stay at the college from their first to second year. Around 89% of students stay on after their first year at NJIT as shown by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System; this is a heartening statistic compared to the 69% national average. However, the larger concern is that many students don’t complete their degrees on time. Although NJIT’s retention rate is much higher than other national statistics, the graduation rate can be improved to improve rankings further.
7. Academic success: Forbes measures this factor through two markers – the number of students who have received prestigious awards such as Fulbright, Goldwater, Rhodes, and Truman scholarships as well as the average number of Ph.D. awardees over the last few years. It’s possible that several students’ recent success with distinguished fellowships and a jump of over 500 in the number of graduate students have fueled NJIT’s boost in ranking.
Recent news about NJIT’s improvement in several of these categories is impressive and a cause for celebration. However, to keep up this progress, it is important to recognize the areas that have room for improvement.
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