Robert MorseRobert Morse, director of data research from U.S. News & World Report, said colleges have made the U.S. News ranking the power that it is. U.S. News doesn’t market it’s ratings or push its product, he said. The colleges are using our rankings as validation, and this has snowballed over time. The effect of the rankings has compounded as the free information is accessed through the Internet.

U.S. News sees their work as a consumer-oriented mission. “We want to help students make choices in the face of rising tuition, room and board bills. We believe we are transparent on how we do the rankings, and we publish this information on our Web site. Over the last 25 years, U.S. News has become a trusted source for these rankings, and the public does turn to us,” Morse said.

Morse acknowledged that there have been questionable outcomes as a result of the rankings. These include the following (1) rankings have created a competitive environment in higher ed that didn’t exist before (2) U.S. News is the annual public benchmark for academic performance, which was not the magazine’s original intention (3) Moving up in U.S. News & World Report rankings has become a very public goal of some colleges, and this may mean policy choices are being made for the purpose of the rankings.

“It’s true that there have been some unintended consequences of rankings, but it can be argued that rankings’ time has come. Rankings are in the forefront of higher education discussions in the U.S. and around the world. Rankings are here to stay though the controversy will continue,” Morse said.