Are Our College Rankings Little More Than Leftist Feel-Goodery?

Ouch, Phi Beta Cons. Ouch.

Over over at Phi Beta Cons, George Leef doesn’t much care for our rankings:

If you think the US News rankings are silly, this will have you rolling on the floor. Why does the fact that lots of students are taking advantage of Pell Grants mean that the school is good? Ditto for the proclivity of alums to enter the Peace Corps. Those are proxies for leftist feel-good notions, but they don’t tell us anything about the schools’ educational value for students.

We’re nothing if not transparent about the reasoning behind our ranking. As we explain in the introduction to the rankings (and touch upon further in a note from our editor-in-chief and our breakdown of the categories displayed on the rankings), “we all depend on colleges and universities to produce groundbreaking research and new inventions, to serve as engines of social mobility for first-generation college students, and to mold the minds of future leaders.” We think the Pell Grant and Peace Corps numbers are telling indicators of whether colleges are living up to these tasks.

Leef can bluntly tar us for promoting “leftist feel-good notions” all he wants (although, given the fact that our rankings raise the hackles of some on the left for including a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps component, this isn’t a particularly compelling critique), but it would be more useful for him to explain exactly why he thinks Pell Grants and Peace Corps membership are bad metrics given the premises we’ve laid out.

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.