The College Ranking Complaints

College guidance counselors don’t like U.S. News and World Report much. Well why do they keep using it then?

According to an article by Caralee Adams in Education Week:

They don’t like how the list is generated, the impact the rankings have on how schools operate, or find it useful in narrowing the college search—yet they acknowledge that it is gaining prominence.

On a scale of 1 (strenuously object to rankings) to 100 (strongly support the rankings), high school counselors rated the rankings a 29, while college admission officers rated the rankings a 39, indicating strong negative opinions in both areas of the profession, according to the survey, A View of the U.S. News & World Report Rankings of Undergraduate Institutions From the College Admission Counseling Perspective. Yet, the majority of those surveyed felt the rankings have increased in prominence in the past five years.

This is the thing about U.S. News and World Report: nobody actually seems to like it. College administrators, whose careers rise and fall based on minor moves on the U.S. News scale, all eagerly point out that the guide is snobbish and methodologically questionable. Academics say things about how U.S. News rituals have resulted in,

…A politics of surveillance, control, and market management that disguises itself as value-neutral and scientific administration. In this emerging academic world, audits have consequences (for an individual, if you don’t pass the tenure audit, you lose your job), honor resides in being No. 1—or, for an institution, at the very least in the top 25.

Even Robert Morse, the director of data research for U.S. News & World Report, the man totally responsible for the rankings, says the ratings aren’t that important, explaining earlier this year that,

It’s important to remember that the U.S. News rankings are conducted to provide one tool to help prospective students and their parents choose the best college for them. The Best Colleges rankings are not done to provide academics a benchmark to measure their institution’s progress or to influence educational policy at any school.

Well listen high school guidance counselors, if you think the publication measures the wrong things and plays too important a role in determining students’ college selections, create your own list. Measure something else. The more rankings the better. The more information students, parents and high schools have the better we all are. Perhaps the National Association for College Admission Counseling, which published the survey, could publish is alternative college ranking.

Read the survey here.

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