College rankings are ‘a joke,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, although competition is intense, and Columbia University falls.
U.S. News Under Fire
The latest version of “the most influential of the rankings” arrived to a chorus of criticism and intense competition from other publications. The 2023 U.S. News “Best Colleges” list was topped by Princeton and MIT at numbers 1 and 2, with Harvard, Stanford, and Yale tied at number 3.
Columbia, in the wake of providing inaccurate data for last year’s rankings, tumbled from its previous spot at number 2 to number 18.
Another notable feature of the new list is less emphasis on SAT and ACT test scores. While some think that U.S. News ought to stop using scores in calculating its rankings altogether, the change reflects the trend of schools dropping standardized tests from the admissions process. U.S. News is no stranger to pushback for its rankings and processes, and this year is providing plenty. To wit: Accusations that they are rooted in exclusion, offer only a narrow prism, and use methodology shown to advantage the wealthiest institutions.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona even weighed in recently, calling college rankings (although not U.S. News specifically) “a joke.” Speaking about the list that has shaped perceptions about higher education for decades, U.S. News executive chairman Eric Gertler said, “We’re very focused on making sure that universities are doing what they say they would do. Our mission is to make sure that students make the best decision for themselves…. Reputation is important.”
Whistleblowers Expose Columbia
U.S. News & World Report has released its “Best Colleges” rankings for 2022–23. In a shocking move, Columbia University has been downgraded to number 18 on the list, from number 2 last year, after one of Columbia’s own math professors accused the university of submitting “inaccurate, dubious or highly misleading” statistics.
In a statement, the university admitted to relying on “outdated and/or incorrect methodologies” in regard to class size and faculty with terminal degrees, and announced that it was pulling out of this year’s rankings.
But U.S. News made its own calculations, based in part on federal data, and moved the university down “a humiliating 16 places.” Although other institutions have admitted to submitting incorrect data in the past, including Emory University and Claremont McKenna College (both in 2012) and Tulane University (in 2013), the incident raises questions about the reliability of the data and how easily the rankings can be gamed.
Also, U.S. News has removed the SAT/ACT score metric for schools where fewer than half of new entrants submitted standard test scores. With more than 1,700 colleges no longer requiring standardized admission tests, their days as a ranking factor may soon be numbered anyway.
Originally published by Paideia Times. Republished with permission.
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