US News College Ranking Remains the Kingpin

US News & World Report publishes the most important college ranking each year.

Columbia University’s plunge in the 2022-2023 US News & World Report annual college ranking was not entirely unexpected. After all, the school got caught with its hand in the cookie jar misreporting data to the publication. Now, did most believe the school would fall from a tie for #2 to a tie for #18? Maybe, maybe not. Frankly, we didn’t think Columbia would even appear in this year’s ranking since the school vowed not to participate. Yet US News used publicly available data to rank the school nonetheless. So was it an act of vengeance by US News? A punishment for poking holes in the sanctity of their ranking system? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing is clear — the US News rankings remains the kingpin of all college rankings and they’re not going away anytime soon.

As Stephanie Saul reports for The New York Times in a piece entitled “Despite Years of Criticism, the U.S. News College Rankings Live On,” “College presidents have decried the U.S. News rankings as meaningless. Policymakers accused them of skewing educational priorities. And high school guidance counselors call them unreliable. Yet the U.S. News & World Report college rankings continue to be a dominant reference guide for families evaluating colleges — even though their accuracy was again questioned when Columbia University lost its No. 2 spot this week, sliding all the way to No. 18. Interviews with students, parents and education professionals suggest that the rankings are firmly established as a go-to part of the college selection process across the country. It is true for students vying for the Top 10, families looking for the best buy among regional schools and international students who want global name recognition.”

It’s not as though folks don’t regularly question the methodology behind the US News rankings. It’s not as though folks don’t question, say, the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, two of our nation’s most elite institutions, regularly outranking multiple Ivy League schools. But, alas, the US News ranking — flawed as it is — has remained a staple of the elite college admissions process for decades. We’ve long mused that the ranking is even considered the Bible in some parts of our world as parents and students navigate applying to elite U.S. universities. That was true decades ago. That remains true today — even after the ranking’s credibility has been widely questioned by the most recent reporting scandal. Said a college counselor to The New York Times in the same piece, “I haven’t met a parent who doesn’t think the rankings are important. It doesn’t matter who they are, what their educational backgrounds are, or where they live.” Amen.

 
 

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