College Rankings for the Online Community: Advancing and Defining the Next Rankings Model

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

College rankings remain a ubiquitous but controversial presence in the education marketplace. As the demand for online learning continues to rise, there is an opportunity to redefine college rankings to better benefit both students and schools. Join us for a collaborative discussion on the next generation of rankings.


Quinn Tomlin is the Marketing Communications Manager for BestColleges. In this role, she oversees a team responsible for thought leadership, public relations, email marketing, branding, and social media. She has worked on the BestColleges' marketing team for four years and works closely with general manager Stephanie Snider to evolve their approach to college rankings and university communications. Quinn has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy from Seattle University and is an avid hiker and food enthusiast.
Stephanie Snider is the General Manager of where, since 2014, she has lead content marketing strategy and day-to-day site operations. Her belief that everyone deserves access to quality and affordable education is the touchstone that guides her. Working with Quinn Tomlin to engage the higher education community, they strive to foster transparency in education and better serve prospective students as they try to make sense of a complex school choice landscape. Stephanie has a BA in English and M.Arch from the University of Washington. She boasts a work history that spans finance, insurance, design, entrepreneurship, and digital marketing. This varied experience uniquely lends itself to covering college and career planning for students at each step of their journey.

Extended Abstract

College rankings remain a popular but controversial fact of life in higher education. Prospective students rely on rankings lists to make significant educational decisions, but these lists are often biased toward elite, private universities and can lack consistency and depth of reporting, particularly for online programs. Today’s rankings are unable to accurately reflect online program-level information and rate them efficiently at scale, leaving prospective students and qualified schools at a disadvantage.

As a leading publisher of student resources, college rankings, and career guides since 2014, the team behind our website has dedicated thousands of hours to creating college rankings and we understand the problems students and schools see in today’s lists (ours and those of our competitors).

The value system behind our methodology is ground in three core principles: learner support, affordability, and online competency, and we are always looking for ways to deepen our commitment to student success metrics. We have a vision to create better online program rankings that serve both students and schools through more consistent reporting of data, evolving technologies, and lists that are personalized and unique to the individual student’s needs. Our mission is to connect students to the school and programs that are best for them.   

Session Interactivity & Participation

This session will be highly interactive and will focus on information sharing and exchange. We’ll share our perspective as a top commercial publisher of online program rankings and will collect feedback on our approach through collaborative discussions around the major challenges of college rankings. Collectively, we will brainstorm and adapt strategies for more effectively rating online program quality in rankings. We encourage attendees to stop by with ideas, opinions, and a vision for improvement.

Session Goals

Individuals attending this session will have the opportunity to contribute their ideas on the topic of college rankings as well as ‘look under the hood’ of our rankings process. They should leave with a fuller sense of how rankings could better measure student success in online learning and can expect to contribute to the creation of the next generation of online college rankings. Let’s work together to create something great!