Despite Years of Criticism, the U.S. News College Rankings Live On (2022)

Despite Years of Criticism, the U.S. News College Rankings Live On (1)

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Columbia University skidded to No. 18, suggesting that the ratings may be flawed and easily manipulated. But for many families, the list is a marker of prestige.

Neil Daniel, a junior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a top public high school in Alexandria, Va. He said he looked at college rankings but also independently analyzed the average SAT and ACT scores at schools he is interested in.Credit...Ting Shen for The New York Times

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    (Video) Despite Years of Criticism the U S News College Rankings Live On

By Stephanie Saul

College presidents have decried the U.S. News rankings as meaningless. Policymakers accused them of skewing educational priorities. And high school guidance counselors call them unreliable.

Yet the U.S. News & World Report college rankings continue to be a dominant reference guide for families evaluating colleges — even though their accuracy was again questioned when Columbia University lost its No. 2 spot this week, sliding all the way to No. 18.

Interviews with students, parents and education professionals suggest that the rankings are firmly established as a go-to part of the college selection process across the country. It is true for students vying for the Top 10, families looking for the best buy among regional schools and international students who want global name recognition.

“I haven’t met a parent who doesn’t think the rankings are important,” said Terry Mady-Grove, whose company, Charted University Consultants, advises clients from around the world. “It doesn’t matter who they are, what their educational backgrounds are, or where they live.”

In the most competitive high schools, the college rankings have reached the level of obsession.

“I think it’s more of a FOMO, fear of missing out,” said Neil Daniel, a junior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a top public high school in Alexandria, Va. “Going to TJ, a lot of people, their parents and the communities around them, they’re expected to get into an Ivy League school. There’s a lot of pressure — Harvard, Stanford, Yale, M.I.T.”

Neil said he looked at rankings but also independently analyzed the average SAT and ACT scores at each school. He is interested in Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, a techie school ranked No. 22, but he sees some local options as possibilities, including the University of Virginia (No. 25), as well as his father’s alma mater, Virginia Tech (No. 62).

“To be honest, the schools in our area — they’re really great,” he said. “Top 10 schools tend to be more expensive, but in terms of cost-effectiveness, you get a little more out of local schools.”

His mother, Divya Singh, said the rankings were not the most important thing to her.

“I do want it to be a good school, don’t get me wrong,” she said. “There are things that are more important to us than the name of the school he gets into or the ranking of that school.”

Many parents, though, approach the rankings as make-or-break deals, the key to lifelong success as well as bragging rights.

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Despite Years of Criticism, the U.S. News College Rankings Live On (3)

Marjorie Hass, president of the Council of Independent Colleges, said that even with increased competition from other college rating publications, the U.S. News rankings remained a critical reference point for certain parents.

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“These are often parents who are perhaps more status conscious and they really see those rankings as, in some ways, a status signifier,” said Dr. Hass, a longtime college administrator and former president of Rhodes College in Memphis.

Darren Rose, president of POM College Consulting, a college admissions adviser based in suburban Cleveland, says that parents regularly contact his company armed with a list of top-ranked schools and insist that their children are timber for admission.

His company tries to explain that other schools might be better fits, but he says that “numbers mean more to the family when they’re chatting with their friends or bragging on social media than they mean in the real world.”

(Mr. Rose’s daughter is a biochemistry major at Ohio State University, which boasted this week that it had moved up in the U.S. News rankings for public universities — and is now ranked 49th among national universities.)

“I’m not sure what purpose they serve other than to help the schools charge more money,” Mr. Rose said. “If your school is three, nine or 18, I don’t know how that matters.”

Rankings also matter for many students who plan to remain in-state.

Lana Heaney, a junior at Michigan State University (No. 77) said she was embarrassed in high school because she knew she could not get into the University of Michigan (No. 25), which is often considered a “public Ivy.”

She applied to several other state schools but rejected them, she said, because they were ranked below Michigan State. “When people are thinking about what they want to do in their lives, they obviously want to make a good amount of money,” she said. “When you go to a better school, people assume you will get a better job.”

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In 2020, Michelle Landrito Sison used the U.S. News rankings to help find the right college for her son, Toby Sison, then a high school student in Westbury, N.Y.

The rankings, she said, were “more important to us than to him.”

Still, they had their limits. Even though Toby was accepted at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (No. 41), the offer came with no financial assistance. He elected to go to Stony Brook University for its relatively high ranking and affordability, Ms. Sison said.

“You bet I was happy to hear it was ranked higher this year,” Ms. Sison wrote in a message on Monday. Stony Brook moved up 16 places, to No. 77.

For international students, the rankings can make a difference in their job prospects. Ms. Mady-Grove said that these students — especially those from China and India — focus on the U.S. News list because employers in their home countries are more apt to hire graduates from well-known universities.

One of her clients from Belgium who attended Middlebury College, a prestigious college in Vermont currently ranked 11th among liberal arts colleges, found that he initially had trouble back home because employers were not familiar with the school.

F. King Alexander, senior faculty fellow at the University of Alabama Education Policy Center, said that the rankings became influential because of a dearth of reliable information on college quality, yet that they are based on flawed methods that reward colleges that charge high prices with low acceptance rates.

“There’s been such a lack of information to make good decisions,” said Dr. Alexander, who formerly led several large public universities, most recently Oregon State.

Even so, Dr. Alexander said, the rankings have taken on mythic proportions at some universities, so much so that when he served as chancellor at Louisiana State University, the ranking was part of his performance review.

Walter Kimbrough, interim director of the Black Men’s Research Institute at Morehouse College said the rankings reward wealthy and white institutions.

“It’s a perpetuation of privilege,” Dr. Kimbrough said. “It shouldn’t be called best colleges — call it America’s most privileged colleges.”

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U.S. News did not immediately respond to requests for an interview. But it has often made the case that college is the biggest investment that families will make, and that the rankings help high school students and their families make the most well-informed decisions about college and ensure that the institutions themselves are held accountable.

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Ratings, however, can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, according to John Byrne, publisher and editor of Poets & Quants, which provides information on business schools and publishes its own evaluation system for business schools.

“They affect applications,” he said. “They affect the ability of the schools to raise money from donors, and they even affect the ability of the school to attract faculty.”

He points to a survey of more than 350 admissions consultants at business schools that found that 63 percent of applicants thought a school’s ranking was the most important factor in choosing a school.

Mr. Byrne’s publication first raised questions about U.S. News’s No. 1 ranking for Temple University’s online M.B.A. program, leading to disclosures that the school had submitted false data. The former dean of the business school, Moshe Porat, was convicted on wire fraud charges last year.

Of the myriad college rankings, those from U.S. News have become the most controversial, the result of its influence, the Temple case and now Columbia’s expulsion from the Top 10.

Columbia acknowledged that some of its self-reported data had been inaccurate, but the dramatic decline also helped cast further doubt on the reliability of the U.S. News enterprise. (U.S. News also ranks cars, mutual funds and hospitals.)

Still, the new No. 18 ranking could have a material effect on Columbia.

Ms. Mady-Grove said she was scheduled to talk this week with a family whose child had planned to apply early decision to the university.

“I have a feeling they are going to say they want the child to go to a different school now,” she said. “Columbia hasn’t changed. The ranking has changed.”

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(Video) U.S. News Ranked Columbia No.2, but a Math Professor Has His Doubts

FAQs

What is the most reliable source for university rankings? ›

1. US News and World Report's Best Colleges Report (Methodology) US News is the largest of the college search sites. They provide almost 50 different types of numerical rankings and lists to help students narrow their college search.

Why did Columbia drop in rank? ›

This week ,Columbia University dropped to the #18 from #2 in the U.S. News & World Report's annual college rankings after admitting the University had submitted inaccurate data in earlier years.

What is the number 1 rated college in the US? ›

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

#1 Best Colleges in America.

What is Columbia scandal? ›

Fri 16 Sep 2022 04.00 EDT. The Columbia University academic whose exposure of false data caused the prestigious institution to plunge in US college rankings has accused its administration of deception and a whitewash over the affair.

How reliable is U.S. News ranking? ›

US News college rankings are accurate if the methodology used and details provided by schools alone are considered. However, rankings can be influenced by what participating schools disclose. By making strategic responses or manipulating figures, schools can have control over their rankings.

What is the most respected university ranking? ›

Here are the best global universities
  • Harvard University.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Stanford University.
  • University of California Berkeley.
  • University of Oxford.
  • University of Washington Seattle.
  • Columbia University.
  • University of Cambridge.

Is Columbia harder than Harvard? ›

In 2021, Columbia edged past Princeton and Harvard to become the most competitive Ivy. However, with a current acceptance rate of 3.2%, Harvard is once again the hardest Ivy League school to get into.

Is Columbia harder to get into than Harvard? ›

Discover the 10 hardest colleges to get into in 2022 as well as what these schools look for during the admissions process. Jump to: Harvard.
...
Top 10 Hardest Colleges to Get Into.
SchoolLocationAcceptance Rate (Class of 2026)
1. HarvardCambridge, MA3.19%
2. ColumbiaNew York, NY3.73%
8 more rows

Is Columbia a Tier 1 school? ›

Tier 1 schools include: Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, MIT, UChicago, Caltech, Columbia, Brown, Northwestern, The University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Duke, Vanderbilt, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and Rice.

What is the number 1 hardest school to get into? ›

The rankings are based on acceptance rates and SAT/ACT test scores. Harvard ranked as the toughest school in the country to get into. It has a 5% acceptance rate, according to Niche. Stanford came in second on the list— with an acceptance rate of 5% as well.

What GPA do you need to get into Harvard? ›

It is tough to get into Harvard. The university receives applications from more qualified applicants than they can accept, and most applicants have at least a 4.18GPA. Meeting GPA and SAT/ACT requirements (although these are now optional) will help you get through the first round of filters.

What college has the happiest student? ›

Top 25 Happiest Colleges
  • University of Iowa.
  • Fairfield University.
  • University of California, Berkeley.
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
  • Clemson University.
  • Rice University.
  • Auburn University.
  • Florida State University.
28 Aug 2022

Is Columbia worse than Cornell? ›

While still remaining the 17th best university in the nation, Cornell has now surpassed Columbia University, which saw a significant drop this year in rank, falling from No. 2 to No. 18. Columbia's downfall came after Columbia University Prof.

Did Columbia cheat the rankings? ›

Columbia University, one of the most prominent schools in the country and a member of the Ivy League, dropped to No. 18 in the controversial U.S. News & World Report's college rankings after admitting it submitted inaccurate data to the publication as its ranking soared.

Who burned down Columbia? ›

On February 17, 1865, the soldiers from Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's army ransack Columbia, South Carolina, and leave a charred city in their wake. Sherman is most famous for his March to the Sea in the closing months of 1864.

Is US News college rankings biased? ›

While US News rankings of colleges purport to be highly accurate, they can be misleading in certain important respects. If you make decisions based purely on the US News college rankings, you might end up being miserable.

Are U.S. News reviews unbiased? ›

Readers can trust that our editorial team is providing thoroughly researched, unbiased reviews across our site.

What is the U.S. News ranking based on? ›

Standardized test scores: Average test scores on both the SAT math and evidence-based reading and writing portions, and the composite ACT of all enrolled first-time, first-year students entering in fall 2021 are combined for the ranking model.

What is the biggest party school in the US? ›

Here's a look at the top 25 party schools in America:
  • University of California Santa Barbara.
  • Tulane University.
  • Florida State University.
  • University of Alabama.
  • Howard University.
  • University of Wisconsin.
  • University of Georgia.
  • Syracuse University.
21 Sept 2022

Is Oxford better than Harvard? ›

The QS World University Rankings for 2022 have Oxford at second, Cambridge in joint third place and Harvard coming in at fifth. By contrast, the Times Higher Education Rankings puts Oxford in the first position, with Harvard in joint second and Cambridge in joint fifth.

Who is the No 1 University in world? ›

List of top 1000 universities in the world
UniversityCountryTHE 2022
University of OxfordUnited Kingdom1
University of CambridgeUnited Kingdom5
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)United States2
University of California, Berkeley (UCB)United States8
54 more rows

What is the easiest Ivy to get into? ›

What's the easiest Ivy League school to get into? While all Ivy League schools are incredibly difficult to get into, Cornell University would likely be considered the easiest since it has the highest acceptance rate of all Ivies. As of fall 2021, Cornell's acceptance rate for first-year applicants was 9%.

Which high school sends the most students to Harvard? ›

Nationwide, these are the three top schools with the most graduates who registered at Harvard, Princeton or MIT from 2015-18: Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Virginia: 96; Stuyvesant High School in New York City: 94; and Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire: 87.

Which Ivy is the hardest academically? ›

Harvard is the oldest institution of higher education in the US and consistently ranks #1 hardest Ivy League to get into. Founded in 1636, Harvard offers students a world-class education from some of the most brilliant professors in the world.

What is harder than Harvard? ›

Stanford University

Actually, Harvard isn't even the toughest university to gain acceptance into in the US. Stanford University, with its acceptance rate of 4.7% for the class of 2021, takes the top spot.

What was the lowest GPA to get into Harvard? ›

You should also have a 4.18 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score. For a school as selective as Harvard, you'll also need to impress them with the rest of your application. We'll cover those details next.

What is the hardest college to get into in the world? ›

1. Stanford University. Topping the list of the hardest school to get into in the world is Stanford. It has been featured top of this list for several years and no other university anywhere in the world has managed to replace it yet.

Is MIT a tier 1 college? ›

Tier 1 is comprised of major private research universities, including MIT, UChicago, Stanford, John Hopkins, Northwestern, California Institute of Technology, Duke, Vanderbilt, and Rice (amongst many others).

Is Berkeley a Tier 2? ›

The first tier is UC Berkeley and UCLA.

They're the most selective and generally the most well-regarded of the UC schools. Non-UC colleges that would be in this tier include University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, USC, and the University of Virginia.

Is Purdue a tier 1? ›

A. More than 150 years old institution, Purdue University has been recognized as a Tier 1 research university. According to U.S. News & World Report rankings, Purdue ranks 5 among the most innovative schools in the USA. QS has ranked 109 positions globally and 53rd in the US.

What is the hardest undergrad major? ›

What Are the 10 Most Difficult College Majors?
  • Economics – 2.95.
  • Biology – 3.02.
  • Geology – 3.03.
  • Philosophy – 3.08.
  • Finance – 3.08.
  • Physics – 3.10.
  • Computer Science – 3.13.
  • Mechanical Engineering – 3.17.
1 Nov 2022

What is the hardest degree to get? ›

What are the hardest degree subjects? The hardest degree subjects are Chemistry, Medicine, Architecture, Physics, Biomedical Science, Law, Neuroscience, Fine Arts, Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Economics, Education, Computer Science and Philosophy.

What Ivy League has the easiest classes? ›

This is the case for these 3 schools.
  • Cornell University.
  • Dartmouth College.
  • University of Pennsylvania.
12 Jun 2022

What is the highest GPA ever in high school? ›

A GPA higher than 5.0 is rare, but school point systems are occasionally structured so that students taking advanced classes can rack up bonus points. One student even managed to land a stunning 10.03 GPA by taking 17 advanced classes at a school that awarded bonus points.

What Major has the highest GPA? ›

GPAs by Major

Science majors tend to have lower GPAs on average, with chemistry being the major with the lowest average GPA. Meanwhile, education majors earn the highest GPAs on average.

What college requires the highest GPA? ›

Universities With the Highest Average GPAs
  • Harvard University. 3.64.
  • Yale University. 3.62.
  • Columbia University. 3.59.
  • Vanderbilt University. 3.57.
  • Duke University. 3.56.
  • Baylor University. 3.56.
  • Northeastern University. 3.55.
  • Dartmouth College.

What is the funniest major in college? ›

These fun majors can lead to unique jobs.
  • Bakery Science. ...
  • EcoGastronomy. ...
  • Costume Technology. ...
  • Egyptology and Assyriology. ...
  • Comic Art. ...
  • Popular Music. ...
  • Amusement Park Engineering. ...
  • Foresight. The University of Houston offers a master of science in foresight, the study of predicting what will happen or be needed in the future.
16 Jun 2022

What is the most laid back college? ›

Read on to find out our choices for the top 10 most chill colleges.
  • University of Chicago. ...
  • University of Maryland. ...
  • 6. California Institute of Technology. ...
  • Claremont McKenna College. ...
  • University of Rochester. instagram.com. ...
  • Kansas State University. instagram.com. ...
  • Wellesley College. instagram.com. ...
  • Hampshire College. instagram.com.
11 Jan 2021

Is Cornell more liberal or conservative? ›

The Cornell Review
TypeStudent published fortnightly
Political alignmentConservative, Libertarian
HeadquartersIthaca, New York
Circulation2,000
Websitethecornellreview.org
5 more rows

Is Barnard as prestigious as Columbia? ›

U.S. News & World Report considers Barnard among the “most selective” universities. Still, Barnard's rate is higher than the average acceptance rate of Ivy League schools, which is 7%, and Columbia's, which is 5%.

Is NYU more prestigious than Columbia? ›

Both NYU and Columbia are well known and prestigious. Columbia is part of the Ivy League which is considered very prestigious in the US and abroad. Because Columbia has a lower admission rate than NYU, there is a general perception that Columbia is more prestigious than NYU.

Why is Columbia ranking so low? ›

U.S. News & World Report ranked Columbia University No. 18 among national universities for 2023, after having pulled the Ivy League institution's numerical rank in July because of alleged data-accuracy problems. Before it was unranked, Columbia was No. 2.

Why is Columbia dropping in ranks? ›

Columbia University dropped to the #18 from the #2 spot in the U.S. News & World Report's annual college rankings after admitting it had submitted inaccurate data in earlier years — the university has not ranked as low as #18 since 1988.

Why is MIT ranked so high? ›

Just as the school's name suggests, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is most well-known for its technology-related programs. The school also excels in the STEM field more broadly. In 2022, QS World University Rankings ranked MIT #1 worldwide in 12 different subject areas.

Did Sherman burn Atlanta? ›

Atlanta's Roundhouse

The destruction of Southern rail lines devastated the Confederacy. On November 15, 1864, United States forces led by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman burned nearly all of the captured city of Atlanta, Georgia, United States.

What happened to kid who started Columbia River Gorge fire? ›

In February 2018, a judge sentenced the teen who started the fire to five years probation and 1,920 hours of community service with the Forest Service. The following May, the court ordered him to pay $36.6 million in restitution. If he completes his community service within 10 years, his restitution may be wiped away.

Did Sherman destroy Charleston? ›

Sherman's soldiers did not destroy any of the towns in their path, but they stole food and livestock and burned the houses and barns of people who tried to fight back.

Which ranking site is best for universities? ›

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023 include 1,799 universities across 104 countries and regions, making them the largest and most diverse university rankings to date.

Which rankings are best for universities? ›

View the World University Rankings 2023 methodology

The University of Oxford tops the ranking for the seventh consecutive year. Harvard University remains in second place, but the University of Cambridge jumps from joint fifth last year to joint third.

Which online source is the most credible? ›

We've gathered here several news websites with a good reputation.
  • BBC News. BBC News is one of the most trusted sources you can ever find. ...
  • The Economist. ...
  • The Wall Street Journal. ...
  • Google News. ...
  • The Guardian. ...
  • CNN.
13 Sept 2022

What is the most credible source? ›

Credible sources include peer-reviewed journals, government agencies, research think tanks, and professional organizations. Major newspapers and magazines also provide reliable information thanks to their high publishing standards. Reputable news sources require all content to be fact-checked before publication.

What is the number 1 private university in the world? ›

Harvard University

-It's no surprise that Harvard University tops this list, considering that it also took the top spot in the overall WSJ/THE US College Ranking 2022.

Which country is No 1 in study? ›

Russia has the world's most highly-educated population, with over half of Russian nationals holding a university degree. One major advantage of studying in Russia is the scholarship opportunities available. Each year, the Russian government grants thousands of scholarships to international students.

Is MIT better than Harvard? ›

Conclusion: Making Your MIT vs Harvard Decision

MIT and Harvard are equally prestigious universities based in Cambridge, a nearby city of Boston. While MIT focuses primarily on science, math, and technology, Harvard offers a broader variety of liberal arts and sciences programs.

What are 5 credible sources? ›

Primary, secondary & tertiary sources
  • original research articles.
  • literary works.
  • podcasts.
  • diaries.
  • census and statistics.
18 Jul 2022

What are 3 reliable sources for research? ›

Where to find credible sources
  • Encyclopedias.
  • Textbooks.
  • Websites with . edu or . org domains.
  • News sources with first-hand reporting.
  • Research-oriented magazines like ScienceMag or Nature Weekly.
26 Aug 2021

What are the three most credible types of websites? ›

Websites with these domains (the URL ending) generally have reliable information:
  • org (a registered organisation)
  • edu (an educational institution)
  • gov (a government agency)
  • gov.au (an Australian government agency)
18 Jul 2022

What sources is the least credible? ›

That's why it is extremely important to use credible and reliable sources only.
...
What sources should be avoided?
  • out-of-date materials (published over 10 years ago);
  • posts from social networks (i.e. facebook);
  • blogs;
  • research articles without citations;
  • websites ending in .com, . org, . net etc.

What is a reliable academic source? ›

Types of Credible Sources

Well-established newspapers and magazines (not the opinion sections): New York Times, Time, Newsweek, scholarly journals and books. government and (most) university websites. professional organization website or magazine.

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