Thomas Sowell has an interesting article on measuring ouputs of student achievement in order to "rank" colleges instead of "prestige" based on inputs.
He writes, "The CCAP [Center for College Affordability and Productivity] study uses several measures of educational output, including the proportion of a college’s graduates who win awards like the Rhodes Scholarships or who end up listed in Who’s Who in America, as well as the ratings that students give the professors who teach them. Professor Vedder admits that these are “imperfect” measures of a college’s educational output, but at least they are measures of output instead of input."
Sowell goes on to add that an addition "output" might include the number of students who go on for Ph.D.s
One worry about both the USNWR and CCAP's approach is an empiricist leaning toward numerical and measurable quantification rather than in the role that universities play in shaping the soul's of their students.
Would it be possible to rank schools on the quality of the souls of the faculty, trustees and alumni? One output that is measurable would be something like, how many alumni give their lives for what they believe to be good, true and beautiful?