One measure that weighed down the state's overall ranking in the U.S. News analysis was South Carolina's two-year college graduate rate.
The report placed that rate at 48th in the nation. But the study uses data that have been widely denounced by two-year colleges, said Keith Miller, president of Greenville Technical College.
"It (the two-year college ranking) doesn't even come close to reflecting reality — not even close," Miller said.
At Greenville Tech every year, for instance, up to 4,000 students (25 percent of the student body) attend classes for a semester or two and then transfer to a four-year college. Those students count against Greenville Tech's graduation rate, Miller said, because they don't actually graduate but rather transfer to a four-year program.
An additional 1,400 high school students who take dual-enrollment courses (college credit classes) may count against Greenville Tech's graduation rate as well, Miller said.
"The reason they count as a negative is that they're attending classes but their intent is not to graduate from Greenville Tech," Miller said. "It's simply to attend some classes while they're in high school, so that counts against us."
The two-year college ranking is based on first-time full-time students, Miller said.
At Greenville Tech, however, 60 percent of students attend classes part-time.
"This data doesn't even consider 60 percent of our student body," Miller said.
Studies on education have to be considered critically, Miller added.
"These reports are intended to achieve a certain level of transparency and help inform the public about different colleges and universities across the nation," Miller said. "That's a laudable goal. Having said that, what's sad and so deceiving is not only do they not tell the full story, they tell a misleading story. They don't give an accurate picture."