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How Did the Federal Government Rate Your College a Century Ago?

For the sake of the U.S. Department of Education, if only it were still this easy.

As lawmakers, college presidents, and interest groups bicker over a proposed federal college-ratings system, a fossilized version has popped up on Twitter. From 1911.

This is thanks to Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher-education at Seton Hall University, who tweeted that he discovered the 1911 ratings years ago, while writing a paper.

As Vox’s Libby Nelson notes in a chronicle of the 1911 ratings, the Association of American Universities actually asked the government to devise them. Kendric Charles Babcock, the top higher-education official in the U.S. Bureau of Education, itself a division of the Interior Department, undertook the task. Few were happy with the result. (Anyone surprised?) President William Howard Taft later killed it.

So how did your college stack up more than a century ago? A few things to keep in mind: The four tiers of colleges were based on how prepared their graduates were for graduate school. Also, the asterisks in Class II were used to distinguish its stronger colleges, the equivalent of a “plus” in a paper grade.

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To view the full ratings online, click here.

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