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Posts Tagged ‘U.S. News & World Report’

Debate Continues Over College Rankings

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

It seems like every few months, U.S. News & World Report makes news for the methodology it uses in its annual ranking of best colleges. We last wrote about the controversy in our blog back in August.  

This time, it’s the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) that is reporting the majority of admissions professional surveyed  believe the rankings are based on flawed methodology. Furthermore, 87 percent agree or somewhat agree that the rankings encourage “counterproductive behavior” among colleges.  The admissions professionals also believe the title of “best colleges” is inaccurate and confuses students and parents.

 However, respondents are not ready to admit that they play any part in “gaming” the rankings. “Respondents’ beliefs that institutions are ‘gaming’ the rankings generally seems to apply to other colleges whereas they are less likely to perceive their own institution as manipulating the process,” the NACAC report says.

Interestingly, a majority of admissions officers surveyed also say they tout their college ranking in marketing campaigns even if only in a “limited fashion.”  Furthermore, more than 90 percent admit that the rankings encourage competitive strategies for improving their standing.

Clearly, feelings about the much-publicized rankings remain mixed. Concludes Robert J. Morse, director of data research for U.S. News: “Colleges are saying ‘We don’t like the rankings, but we’re going to use them as a means to validate our quality and to attract students.”

In an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education , David A. Hawkins, NACAC’s director of public policy and research, said he hopes the survey findings will bring more clarity to the debate, even if they don’t prompt changes to the methodology. “If they’re receptive, that would be great,” he says, “but I don’t know that I’m holding my breath.”

Do College Reputations Drive Rankings or Is it the Other Way Around?

Monday, May 17th, 2010

There’s no doubt that some students are unduly influenced by college rankings published by national magazines, regardless of the criteria used to come up with the lists. But new research suggests that faculty can also be heavily influenced by rankings, even when it comes to opinions on academic offerings in their own field. Nicholas A. Bowman, a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame, and Michael N. Bastedo, an associate professor of education at the University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, examined the effects of The Times World University Rankings after they were introduced in 2004. The first year, faculty members and administrators were asked to list up to 30 universities around the world that they considered leaders in their areas of study – science, technology, social science, medicine and arts and the humanities. In analyzing responses in subsequent years, the researchers found that the widely publicized rankings helped form a consensus about the perceived prestige of certain universities. In other words, institutions that fared well in the first year did significantly better in the second year as well.  Based on their findings, Bastedo and Bowman conclude that  “clearly, rankings drive reputation, and not the other way around,” with the reputations of institutions appearing to change “in concert with the introduction and widespread use of a particular rankings system.” This is not the first time research on college rankings has led to this type of conclusion. In a paper published in February in the American Journal of Education, the same researchers examined the U.S. News & World Report rankings and similarly concluded that colleges’ reputations are influenced by rankings.  Read more about the faculty study in the Chronicle of Higher Education.