The “US News & World Report” 2015 college rankings will be coming out in short order and we came across an article about these rankings up on “Vox” that we figured we’d share. It’s an article that is quite critical of the rankings. Critics of any college rankings — not just the “US News & World Report” ranking — have never been in short supply and yet the rankings remain as important as ever in highly selective college admissions. This is especially the case for the “US News & World Report” rankings, the most important of the college rankings.
In the piece on the “US News” college rankings up on “Vox,” one reason it’s suggested that we should be critical of these rankings is because colleges lie. As stated in the article, “Since 2012, five colleges admitted to falsifying data they submitted to US News. These weren’t one-off typos or brief ethical lapses. They were systemic campaigns of misinformation that lasted for years, mostly located at colleges that are generally well-known but aren’t quite Ivy League caliber — the kind of place where rankings really matter. Bucknell University (no. 32 on the US News list of national liberal arts colleges) admitted to submitting six years’ worth of inflated SAT scores. For eight years, Claremont McKenna College (no. 9) inflated students’ class rank and claimed the college rejected a higher proportion of applicants than it actually did. Emory University (no. 20 on the list of national universities) had been inflating the qualifications of its freshman class since at least 2000. George Washington University (no. 51) did the same for at least a decade.” So because a few universities misreport, the rankings should be invalidated? We’re not so sure about that. Some folks in baseball did steroids. There are still World Series Champions. The whole should not be punished for the misbehavior of the few.
It’s also suggested in the “Vox” piece that colleges manipulate the rankings. They sure do! How can colleges do this? Well, they can recruit unqualified students to apply so that they can deny them admission and thereby make their admission rate seem more competitive. They can lower the enrollment cap on classes from 20 to 19. They can encourage students with low grades and scores to study abroad at the beginning of their college experiences because students who begin in the spring do not count towards the “US News” figures. Anyhow, you get the idea. But we argue that there is manipulation in any business. Billy Beane manipulated baseball with the implementation of sabermetrics. Steve Jobs manipulated the home computer business with the help of cool fonts. Colleges should not be faulted for playing well within a system. And the “US News & World Report” rankings should not be faulted for creating a system. It keeps things competitive and what’s wrong with that?