The Brookings Institution, which somehow gets to have an .edu web address, has a new "value-added" ranking of colleges and universities in the USA. The idea, supposedly, is to rank according to how much graduates go on to earn compared with what someone with similar qualifications might be expected to earn if they did not go to that college or university. There are some surprising results, including this. Two of the top fourteen four-year colleges and universities in the ranking are in the small town where I live. (I teach at the 14th-ranked school.) This means I know something about these schools and can speculate plausibly about how they add value.
Three things probably account for my school's high ranking in this case: engineering, the military, and alumni loyalty. Institutes of Technology do very well in this ranking, and our engineering program almost certainly leads to relatively high-paying jobs for some of our graduates. Another ranking I saw that was on similar lines to the Brookings one (this one, perhaps) gave very high marks to military academies, and my school is a similar kind of place. I have heard that it is unofficially regarded as the United States Marine Corps' academy. So that probably helps (because of military pensions perhaps, I don't know). And finally, we have extremely high rates of alumni donations and, presumably, loyalty. Our alumni network is often mentioned as a benefit to graduates seeking jobs. It looks as though there is something to this.
Higher up the ranking is our immediate neighbor, which has no military connection and a more limited engineering program. It has a robust fraternity and sorority system, so it might have greater bonding and hence loyalty for that reason.
In both cases I think the value added (assuming the ranking is not just so flawed that it is completely meaningless) is more likely to come from connections than from the quality of the education provided. Not because these are not good schools, but because there is no reason I can see to think that these schools are better in terms of faculty and teaching, for instance, than many other schools that are lower ranked. In other words, this new ranking is more evidence that it's not what you know but who you know that matters.