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Rankings Time

In the realm of college admissions, last week was a time to rejoice—or rant. It all depends on your opinion of college rankings – or, perhaps, your college’s place on U.S. News & World Report’s annual list. As you may have heard, some university in Massachusetts topped the list of national universities, and a small college in the same state took the top spot on the list of liberal-arts colleges. 

Although some things never change, the ranking methodology does. This year, U.S. News included the views of high-school counselors in its measure of “academic reputation,” perhaps the most controversial aspect of the rankings. Previously, the magazine used only an annual “peer assessment” survey of college presidents, provosts, and admissions deans to calculate this measure.
 Ratings by nearly 1,800 high-school counselors surveyed accounted for a third of that measure, and ratings by college administrators accounted for two-thirds. In other words, the opinions of college officials carry less weight than they did last year.


The significance of this change may be more symbolic than substantial. Sure, the power of the peer-assessment survey, long loathed by some college officials and high-school counselors, has been diluted. Nevertheless, reputation—that slippery and subjective thing—still matters a lot in the U.S. News formula. The mix of reputational experts has just become more diverse.

Filed under: Higher Education