Yesterday U.S. News & World Report announced that starting in 2020, the publication’s annual college ranking will include a grading of America’s online college programs.

According to Robert Mouse, director of data research for U.S. News:

Next year the publication will rank five types of colleges. Currently we only rank four, national universities, and national liberal arts colleges, as well as regional universities and regional colleges. But since people have gotten interested in all online education, we figured it was time to begin ranking computer colleges too.

The publication plans to rank online schools based on student engagement and the number of courses offered.

Mouse said the U.S. News rating system for online schools “versatile enough to be used to demonstrate the overall quality of online education programs, no matter what size or type of institution.”

Well yes, though it appears all of the information U.S. News will assess is bullshit. “Student engagement,” come on. This category is apparently based on things like “efforts are made to engage students with the program and institution” and “instructional materials are easily accessible and usable for the student.” Wouldn’t it be more important to figure out whether or not students learned, graduated, or even passed the courses?

“Yea, but come on, that stuff is hard” responded Mouse. “None of this means anything. Americans have known for years we rate real colleges based on crap like the percent of alumni donate, even though no one cares about that. This isn’t any worse.”

The online category will allow, perhaps force, the publication to “rate” for-profit schools, too. This is the first time U.S. News has attempted to grade proprietary schools as if they were real colleges.

“But don’t worry,” Mouse said. “People only read the national universities and liberal arts colleges sections anyway. We’re really just making this stuff up. But people still keep buying the issue.” [Image via]

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer