You can’t begin to imagine the disappointment I felt last week while on vacation; my laptop was turned off (no Internet, alas) and I knew that I was totally missing out on U.S. News and World Report’s annual college ranking list: America’s Best Colleges 2009.
They put it out every year—hence the “annual”— and the list itself is the proud owner of a pretty high crap factor. It’s fairly widely known at this point that schools work their numbers so as to increase their rankings. So take the list with a grain of salt, and maybe liken the list’s value to that of a ballot box full of “votes” in a country governed by a tyrannical dictatorship.
I’m hopeful that someday soon the fiasco that is College Rankings will be no more, and that a new way to collate, compare and contrast, catalog and categorize (the letter of the day appears to be ‘C’) colleges (there’s another one!) and universities will be implemented. Thankfully, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) is working on it via the University and College Accountability Network (U-CAN) initiative.
Until this rash on the a** of higher education clears up, may I suggest prospective college students use their heads to choose a school. Some combination of campus visits, reading the blogs of students currently attending a school of interest, asking current students outright what their school does or doesn’t have to offer, as well as some extensive reading and research that’s based on finding a college which would be a good fit for the prospective student in question, and is not based on erroneous rankings and the degree of name recognition a school has.
I tend to lump the Forbes list and the Princeton Review list in with the above. It’s conceivable that my b.s. detector is hyper-sensitive and those other two lists aren’t quite as noxious. The Princeton Review did add the ‘Green Honor Roll’ category to this year’s list, and the rankings are based on student surveys. However, they only surveyed 15% of the four-year schools in the U.S., which seems less than complete to me. Maybe use the book as a shallow jumping-off point. The list Forbes came up with has questionable methodology, including using Rate My Professor and Who’s Who in America. Although, to be fair, no college presidents were involved in the surveying and if attending a school with a high number of Who’s Who greats is your thing, then who am I to argue?
What Makes a College Good?
College Officials Criticize Rankings
‘U.S. News’ Sees Drop in Participation
Harvard Reclaims Top Spot in Latest U.S. News List
The College Rankings Revolt
A Better Way To Rank America’s Colleges
Rankings Tail Wags the Dog
Assessing Learning Outcomes
Posted by Alexa Harrington