U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Ranking | Wikipedia audio article

U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Ranking | Wikipedia audio article

August 14, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


In 1983, U.S. News & World Report published
its first “America’s Best Colleges” report. The rankings have been compiled and published
annually since 1985 and are the most widely quoted of their kind in the United States. These rankings are based upon data that U.S.
News & World Report collects from each educational institution from an annual survey sent to
each school. The rankings are also based upon opinion surveys
of university faculties and administrators who do not belong to the schools. The popularity of U.S. News & World Report’s
Best Colleges rankings is reflected in its 2014 release, which brought 2.6 million unique
visitors and 18.9 million page views to usnews.com in one day. Traffic came from over 3,000 sites, including
Facebook and Google. U.S. News & World Report continues to publish
comprehensive college guides in book form. Robert Morse created the U.S. News Best Colleges
rankings methodology, and continues to oversee its application as chief data strategist at
U.S. News. In 2014, the Washington Post featured a profile
of Morse, exploring his 30-year career with the publication. In October 2014, the U.S. News & World Report
published its inaugural “Best Global Universities” rankings. Inside Higher Ed noted that the U.S. News
is entering into the international college and university rankings area that is already
“dominated by three major global university rankings”, namely the Times Higher Education
World University Rankings, the Academic Ranking of World Universities, and the QS World University
Rankings. Robert Morse stated that “it’s natural for
U.S. News to get into this space.” Morse also noted that the U.S. News “will
also be the first American publisher to enter the global rankings space.”==Methodology==
The magazine U.S. News & World Report’s rankings are based upon information they collect from
educational institutions via an annual survey, government and third party data sources, and
school websites. It also considers opinion surveys of university
faculty and administrators outside the school. Their college rankings were first published
in 1983 and have been published in all years thereafter, except 1984. The US News listings have gained such influence
that some Universities have made it a specific goal to reach a particular level in the US
News rankings. Belmont University president Bob Fisher stated
in 2010, “Rising to the Top 5 in U.S. News represents a key element of Belmont’s Vision
2015 plan.” Clemson University made it a public goal to
rise to the Top 20 in the US News rankings, and made specific changes, including reducing
class size and altering the presentation of teacher salaries, so as to perform better
in the statistical analysis by US News. At least one university, Arizona State, has
actually tied the university president’s pay to an increase in the school’s placement in
the US News rankings.The following are elements in the US News rankings. Peer assessment: a survey of the institution’s
reputation among presidents, provosts, and admissions deans of other institutions (15%)
Guidance Counselor assessment: a survey of the institution’s reputation among approximately
1,800 high school guidance counselors (7.5%) Retention: six-year graduation rate and first-year
student retention rate (20%) Faculty resources: class sizes, faculty salary,
faculty degree level, student-faculty ratio, and proportion of full-time faculty (20%)
Student selectivity: standardized test scores of admitted students, proportion of admitted
students in upper percentiles of their high school class, and proportion of applicants
accepted (15%) Financial resources: per-student spending
related to academics and public service. (10%)
Graduation rate performance: comparison between modeled expected and actual graduation rate
(7.5%) Alumni giving rate (5%)U.S. News determined
the relative weights of these factors and changed them over time. The National Opinion Research Center reviewed
the methodology and stated that the weights “lack any defensible empirical or theoretical
basis”. The first four of the listed factors account
for the great majority of the U.S. News ranking (62.5%, according to U.S. News’s 2017 methodology),
and the “reputational measure” (which surveys high-level administrators at similar institutions
about their perceived quality ranking of each college and university) is especially important
to the final ranking (accounting by itself for 22.5% of the ranking according to the
2017 methodology).A New York Times article reported that, given the U.S. News weighting
methodology, “it’s easy to guess who’s going to end up on top: the Big Three, Harvard,
Yale and Princeton round out the first three essentially every year. When asked how he knew his system was sound,
Mel Elfin, the rankings’ founder, often answered that he knew it because those three schools
always landed on top. When a new lead statistician, Amy Graham,
changed the formula in 1999 to one she considered more statistically valid, the California Institute
of Technology jumped to first place. Ms. Graham soon left, and a modified system
pushed Princeton back to No. 1 the next year.”A 2010 study by the University of Michigan found
that university rankings in the United States significantly affect institutions’ applications
and admissions. The research analyzed the effects of the U.S.
News & World Report rankings, showing a lasting effect on college applications and admissions
by students in the top 10% of their class. In addition, they found that rankings influence
survey assessments of reputation by college presidents at peer institutions, such that
rankings and reputation are becoming much more similar over time.A 2014 study published
in Research in Higher Education removed the mystique of the U.S. News ranking process
by producing a ranking model that faithfully recreated U.S. News outcomes and quantified
the inherent “noise” in the rankings for all nationally ranked universities. The model developed provided detailed insight
into the U.S. News ranking process. It allowed the impact of changes to U.S. News
subfactors to be studied when variation between universities and within subfactors was present. Numerous simulations were run using this model
to understand the amount of change required for a university to improve its rank or move
into the top 20. Results show that for a university ranked
in the mid-30s it would take a significant amount of additional resources, directed in
a very focused way, to become a top-ranked national university, and that rank changes
of up to +/- 4 points should be considered “noise”.==Ranking results====Criticism==During the 1990s, several educational institutions
in the United States were involved in a movement to boycott the U.S. News & World Report college
rankings survey. The first was Reed College, which stopped
submitting the survey in 1995. The survey was also criticized by Alma College,
Stanford University, and St. John’s College during the late 1990s. SAT scores play a role in The U.S. News & World
Report college rankings even though U.S. News is not empowered with the ability to formally
verify or recalculate the scores that are represented to them by schools. Since the mid-1990s there have been many instances
documented by the popular press wherein schools lied about their SAT scores in order to obtain
a higher ranking. An exposé in the San Francisco Chronicle
stated that the elements in the methodology of the U.S News and World Report are redundant
and can be reduced to one thing: money.On June 19, 2007, during the annual meeting of
the Annapolis Group, members discussed the letter to college presidents asking them not
to participate in the “reputation survey” section of the U.S. News & World Report survey
(this section comprises 25% of the ranking). As a result, “a majority of the approximately
80 presidents at the meeting said that they did not intend to participate in the U.S.
News reputational rankings in the future”. The statement also said that its members “have
agreed to participate in the development of an alternative common format that presents
information about their colleges for students and their families to use in the college search
process”. This database will be web-based and developed
in conjunction with higher-education organizations including the National Association of Independent
Colleges and Universities and the Council of Independent Colleges. On June 22, 2007, U.S. News & World Report
editor Robert Morse issued a response in which he argued, “in terms of the peer assessment
survey, we at U.S. News firmly believe the survey has significant value because it allows
us to measure the ‘intangibles’ of a college that we can’t measure through statistical
data. Plus, the reputation of a school can help
get that all-important first job and plays a key part in which grad school someone will
be able to get into. The peer survey is by nature subjective, but
the technique of asking industry leaders to rate their competitors is a commonly accepted
practice. The results from the peer survey also can
act to level the playing field between private and public colleges”. In reference to the alternative database discussed
by the Annapolis Group, Morse also argued, “It’s important to point out that the Annapolis
Group’s stated goal of presenting college data in a common format has been tried before
… U.S. News has been supplying this exact college information for many years already. And it appears that NAICU will be doing it
with significantly less comparability and functionality. U.S. News first collects all these data (using
an agreed-upon set of definitions from the Common Data Set). Then we post the data on our website in easily
accessible, comparable tables. In other words, the Annapolis Group and the
others in the NAICU initiative actually are following the lead of U.S. News”.Some higher
education experts, such as Kevin Carey of Education Sector, have asserted that U.S.
News and World Report’s college rankings system is merely a list of criteria that mirrors
the superficial characteristics of elite colleges and universities. According to Carey, the U.S. News ranking
system is deeply flawed. Instead of focusing on the fundamental issues
of how well colleges and universities educate their students and how well they prepare them
to be successful after college, the magazine’s rankings are almost entirely a function of
three factors: fame, wealth, and exclusivity. He suggests that there are more important
characteristics parents and students should research to select colleges, such as how well
students are learning and how likely students are to earn a degree.The question of college
rankings and their impact on admissions gained greater attention in March 2007, when Dr.
Michele Tolela Myers (the former President of Sarah Lawrence College) shared in an op-ed
that the U.S. News & World Report, when not given SAT scores for a university, chooses
to simply rank the college with an invented SAT score of approximately one standard deviation
(roughly 200 SAT points) behind those of peer colleges, with the reasoning being that SAT-optional
universities will, because of their test-optional nature, accept higher numbers of less academically
capable students. In a 2011 article regarding the Sarah Lawrence
controversy, Peter Sacks of The Huffington Post criticized the U.S. News rankings’ centering
on test scores and denounced the magazine’s “best colleges” list as a scam:
In the U.S. News worldview of college quality, it matters not a bit what students actually
learn on campus, or how a college actually contributes to the intellectual, ethical and
personal growth of students while on campus, or how that institution contributes to the
public good … and then, when you consider that student SAT scores are profoundly correlated
[to] parental income and education levels – the social class that a child is born
into and grows up with – you begin to understand what a corrupt emperor ‘America’s Best Colleges’
really is. The ranking amounts to little more than a
pseudo-scientific and yet popularly legitimate tool for perpetuating inequality between educational
haves and have nots – the rich families from the poor ones, and the well-endowed schools
from the poorly endowed ones.==See also==
U.S. News & World Report Best Global University Ranking