US News ranking prompts discussion of what constitutes 'best'
- U.S. News and World Report's annual Best Colleges list was released this week, prompting the yearly scramble by public relations offices to herald their institutions' rankings, while many in the public were reminded of the tendencies to game the system and ignore diversity and ethics in exchange for a spot at the top
- NPR profiled the growing business and influence of ranking colleges, suggesting that most formulas include weighted assessments that are open to more than 20 million college students and 7,000 college presidents nationwide.
- Their rating of the rankings knocks down metrics of selectivity, reputation, learning and post-graduate earnings, but says that broader outcomes like happiness, satisfaction and prestige were worthy measurements of the effectiveness of college.
The unspoken culture of college rankings is that many of the scores are based upon self-assessment, peer assessment and metrics which don't address the full mission of certain schools. With categories such as retention, graduation and alumni giving rates, schools which enroll more affluent students and have traditional advantages in fundraising and research funding will historically rank higher on the list.
Additionally, in a race between 20-40 elite private institutions for the top spot, schools are inclined to inflate numbers on diversity and teaching and learning resources to climb a few spots, things which may help to improve a place in a list, but do not communicate the overall campus experience or post-graduate outcomes.