The Wall Street Journal has released its “WSJ/College Pulse 2024 Best Colleges in the U.S.” list with Illinois Institute of Technology ranking #23 in the United States out of the 400 top colleges across the country, and #1 in Illinois.
“This recognition is an acknowledgement of the proven impact and real value of a degree to learners’ careers,” said Illinois Tech provost and senior vice president for academic affairs Kenneth T. Christensen. “Our continued ascension reflects an understanding of the evolving role of higher education in ensuring long-term value for learners and validates Illinois Tech’s vision of reimagining education to advance technology and progress for all.”
Illinois Tech vaulted ahead in this year’s Best Colleges rankings due in part to essential updates to the ranking methodology that increased the weight of student outcomes, with particular emphasis on graduation rates and the earning potential of graduates.
“Critically, we now put greater emphasis on measuring the value added by colleges—not simply measuring their students’ success, but focusing on the college’s contribution to that success,” The Wall Street Journal wrote.
By those measures, Illinois Tech broke into the top 25, joining the ranks of some of the most prestigious universities in the country. Princeton led the list, followed by MIT, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, and Dartmouth, with six Ivy League institutions in the top 25 alongside Illinois Tech. Illinois Tech is also #2 in the Midwest region and the top-ranked university on the list in Illinois, followed by Northwestern University at #25.
Illinois Tech was also ranked #16 for Salary Impact, the highest-ranking university in Illinois, validating the university’s focus on student success.
Illinois Tech boasts a strong record of post-graduation earnings, with more than 90 percent of its 2022 graduates obtaining full-time employment or continuing their education through graduate studies and with 2022 graduates reporting a mean average starting salary of $75,352 for undergraduates and $87,258 for graduates, well above the national average. In fact, Illinois Tech is #1 in the state for lifting students from families in the lowest 20 percent of income to the top 20 percent, #1 in the Chicago region for occupational earning power, and third in the nation in upward economic mobility among highly selective private universities.
This year’s Best Colleges ranking also found that Illinois Tech delivers $55,793 in value-added above the median salary of Illinois high-school graduates, which the publication estimates helps students recover their full college investment in fewer than two years, demonstrating the clear return on investment of an Illinois Tech education. To calculate the value added by colleges, The Wall Street Journal estimated how well their students would do regardless of which college they attended, taking into account the factors that best predict student outcomes. It combined these scores with raw graduation rates and graduate salaries.
“We no longer reward colleges’ wealth or reputation in and of themselves,” said The Wall Street Journal. “Gone is the survey of academics on schools’ reputations. Gone are the rewards for instructional spending and the assumption that the quality of education is largely dictated by how expensive it is to produce.” Gone, too, are measures of selectivity, which The Wall Street Journal considers to be “an input, rather than an outcome for which the college should be rewarded.”
“At Illinois Tech, we define ourselves by student success, not selectivity and whom we exclude,” said Mallik Sundharam, vice president for enrollment management and student affairs. “It’s our responsibility as an institution of higher learning to help students from all academic backgrounds thrive in their journey to academic and career success and not provide barriers to obtaining a degree. We’re proud that this focus on access has proven to bring more than 30 percent of students who are first-generation and 35 percent of students who are Pell-eligible to our campus, consistently supporting our founding mission.”
Illinois Tech’s commitment to quality includes new programs designed to increase access to a world-class education for all students, including Discover+, which enables students to explore multiple disciplines before choosing a specialization or a multi-disciplinary major, and Ascend that offers a seamless transition from high school to a bachelor’s degree, complete with mentorship, career coaching, scholarships, and internship opportunities.
Illinois Tech’s well-established expertise and success in delivering career readiness and proven career outcomes for students culminated in the launch of its Elevate program.
“With more than a decade of assessment of the student journey—experiences, success, and career outcomes—and after developing a data model with extensive analysis of student success variables, we’ve created the Elevate program as a tailored plan for our students’ academic and career growth,” said Sundharam. “We know that the most effective resumes aren’t merely written in their senior year of college, but are built through a series of meaningful experiences during their precious time with us. We aim to help students construct those exceptional resumes with meaningful and impactful experiences, ensuring they are graduate job-ready and are prepared to succeed in a dynamic job market.”
Illinois Tech’s one-of-a-kind Elevate program is a product of Illinois Tech’s efforts to adapt to the future needs of the workforce and help reimagine the future of education. The Elevate program—a commitment to job readiness that incorporates a robust suite of hands-on experiences focused on preparing students for career success—contributed to a record-breaking surge in applications for this semester. Proving that Illinois Tech is no longer Chicago’s best-kept secret, undergraduate applications were up by more than 20 percent, and graduate applications rose by more than 40 percent compared to last year, including consistent application growth from underrepresented minority students and first-generation college goers, and a 31 percent increase in applications from women.
“Through the Elevate program and other initiatives, Illinois Tech continues to demonstrate the value and relevance of our academic offerings to meet workforce needs, as well as our deliberate efforts to ensure the same,” said Christensen. “Founded during a transformative era in industrial history, this university initially educated the children of Chicago’s meatpackers, steelworkers, and machinists, preparing them to become engineers, physicists, and architects. Illinois Tech remains committed to its foundational promise, serving as a beacon of opportunity for students from all economic backgrounds.”
Illinois Tech’s focus on job readiness is evidence-based. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 91 percent of employers seek job candidates with work experience; on average, 80 percent of eligible interns receive a job offer. In addition, more than 90 percent of Illinois Tech undergraduate and graduate students are employed or progress toward higher learning after graduation.
Illinois Tech’s data shows the role of hands-on experience in promoting successful outcomes: students who have completed an internship are more than 25 percent more likely to find full-time employment and have at least a $10,000 higher median starting salary than peers who have not completed an internship. This career-focused approach has contributed to a 78 percent increase in applications over the last four years. The university’s strong focus on student success complements a vibrant student life from proximity to the great global city of Chicago and a thriving campus community, including more than 150 student clubs and organizations.
“We all know that learning doesn’t begin at convocation and end at commencement,” says Sundharam. “We have looked deeply at the students of today and the market demands of tomorrow and took the opportunity to tailor our academic offerings by focusing on student success before, during, and after their time at Illinois Tech. We’re working to shift the definition of what it means to truly bring value to our students throughout their careers.”