College Rankings (Over)Rated

, Abraham Taylor, Leave a comment

If you are trying to decide which university to attend, you might want to think twice about heavily basing your decision on the U.S. News and World Report’s infamous college rankings. A recent survey conducted by a Washington-based education and opinion firm found that the rankings might be biased and inaccurate.

The nationwide survey of university officials found a strong sense of pessimism towards the rankings. Many officials felt their rankings were “unfair and too low.” They also worry that students place far too much emphasis on them. Nine out of ten university officials desire a change in “the factors that make up a college or university’s profile.”

The survey, conducted last year, found many officials felt the ratings system was merely “a popularity contest” and not “a look at the academic nature of the institution or what happens in the classrooms and labs.” These considerations should be “the most important criteria of all,” the survey found.

Graduate schools felt particularly slighted by the rankings. Nearly 80% of law schools feel their rankings are too low due to “methodological flaws” in the rankings system. When surveyed, most officials relied on their own knowledge (i.e., bias and subjective opinion) to evaluate other schools and not on hard data. That’s right. In their survey, Potomac Inc. found that school administrators themselves produce the U. S. News rankings by rating their schools and those of their peers.

Eighty percent of law school respondents also felt that prospective students place “too much emphasis on the U.S. News rankings,” Potomac Inc. found. Undergraduate officials are more favorable to the rankings, but not by much.

Many of the hundreds of officials surveyed found a much better way for students to evaluate a college or university is The Princeton Review, which is considered “more independent than the U.S. News.” A majority of university officials prefer The Princeton Review because it presents “subjective features in both positive and negative categories.” Officials also like the feature of students evaluating schools rather than a subjective and sometimes devious U.S. News system, which allows officials to harm other schools by skewing data with low evaluation scores.

Officials see The Princeton Review rankings as positive by a three-to-one margin. The U.S. News on the other hand is seen negatively by a two-to-one margin. The Princeton Review is not as well known as U.S. News.

So if you are trying to decide which school to attend, be sure and do your research, don’t simply rely on a prominent but not perfect system like that used by the U.S. News and World Report.

A recent graduate of Brigham Young University, Abraham Taylor is an intern at Accuracy in Media.