If the Ivy League Expanded, Who Would It Add?

Directionally, Harvard has a lot of suitors: Vanderbilt, “Harvard of the South”, Michigan, “Harvard of the West”, even Miami of Ohio, “Harvard of the Midwest”. Still, there is only one Harvard. And in the wagon with it, seven other coveted institutions who bear the coveted “Ivy League” moniker. For whatever it is worth, “Ivy League” denotes academic prestige that no other athletic conference can match.

The last decade has cast reasons to doubt the deservedness of the Ivy League’s lofty reputation, as well as perhaps the value of expensive four-year college in general. Still, whatever its failings, the Ivy League for the moment continues to command an air of elitism and exclusivity that makes it a dream destination for the best and brightest young minds. While successful people come from all walks of life and attend all make and manner of colleges or even do not attend college at all, nowhere does a greater concentration of brilliance get together to study the world and enlighten each other than within the confines of the hallowed Ivy gates of these eight prestigious universities.

But while the Ivy League is elite, its institutions are not the only great universities in the country. In fact, many a university has laid the claim of its Ivy League worthiness, and many a graduate has proudly asserted their school as the next Ivy League institution if the prestigious league were ever to expand.

To put a fine point on it, what if the League were in fact to expand? Beyond the current member institutions – Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Penn, Dartmouth, Brown, and Cornell – who might it add? Which universities across the country are most worthy of the next generation of Ivy League expansion?

To study the issue, we assessed and ranked the viability of universities for Ivy League inclusion by four factors the Ivies arguably most care about – brilliance of their students, selectivity in admission, institutional wealth, and completeness of programming. We did this by assessing the SAT scores of university admits, undergraduate admission rates, university endowments, and the consistency between math and science SAT scores and the range of scores from which admitted students had to score.

Based on these factors, we compared universities to the lowest-performing Ivy League school, Cornell, to set our baseline for Ivy League worthiness. With a score of 100, Cornell is our baseline for Ivy viability. Marking a zero on the scale is Iowa State, the lowest-performing school from the Power-5 athletic conferences. A score of 50, therefore, represents a school, that based on these variables, shows 50% Ivy League worthiness, coming in halfway between Iowa State and Cornell.

First, let’s look at the scores of the current Ivy League schools:

Harvard: 168 (+68% worthiness)

Yale: 153

Princeton: 144

Columbia: 122

Penn: 120

Dartmouth: 105

Brown: 105

Cornell: 100

Harvard’s score is the highest in the nation. Their score is 68% higher than Cornell’s, relative to the 100% gap between Cornell and Iowa State. With massive divides between themselves and the Ivy League baseline, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are in a league of their own within the league, while Cornell, Brown, and Dartmouth anchor the bottom of the conference.

The top 5 “Next Ivy League” schools:

To figure out the first most worthy admits to the Ivy League, we looked at which other schools scored over 100. First, let’s look at the schools that outscore Cornell in every single category.

  1. Stanford: 143

  2. MIT: 133

  3. UChicago: 122

  4. Northwestern: 117

  5. Duke: 110

If the Ivy League ever in fact did expand, these are the five schools they would probably be most likely to look at, at least on a pure merits basis. They are a “tier 1” class of complete institutions that fall well within the “meat” of the Ivy League in every single category we looked at. These five, we might consider are “Tier-1 Ivy League Next” universities.

Tier 2: A good case for being “Ivy League-worthy”

There are a number of other schools that rate over 100 in the aggregate, led at the top by Caltech. While these are strong schools, the fact that they do not surpass Cornell in every category in the equation relegates them to a slightly lower Tier-2 status in terms of their likelihood for Ivy League admission.

  1. Caltech: 120

  2. Vanderbilt: 111

  3. Washington University (St. Louis): 108

  4. Rice: 107

  5. Swarthmore: 106

  6. Johns Hopkins: 106

  7. Notre Dame: 104

  8. Pomona: 100

Tier 3: In the ballpark of Ivy League worthiness

Ranking each over a 90, but falling short of the present Ivy League baseline, these schools comprise a “tier 3” of Ivy League worthiness.

  1. Amherst: 99

  2. Tufts: 98

  3. Williams: 96

  4. Bowdoin: 93

  5. Grinnel: 93

  6. Georgetown: 93

  7. Carnegie Mellon: 92

  8. Michigan: 92

  9. USC: 92

  10. Emory: 90

Here are the scores of a number of other schools often tossed around in the Ivy League conversation:

Scoring between 79 and 90:

  • Wellesley: 84

  • Berkeley: 83

  • Georgia Tech: 83

  • UVA: 81

  • Wake Forest: 79

Scoring between 65 and 79:

  • Tulane: 76

  • NYU: 75

  • Boston College: 75

  • UNC: 74

  • UCLA: 70

Scoring between 50 and 64:

  • George Washington: 60

  • Ohio State: 55

  • Baylor: 52

Scoring below 49:

  • Penn State: 41

  • Rutgers: 36

  • Purdue: 34

  • Miami, OH: 33

  • DePaul: 29

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