U.S. News rankings may not be as important as they once were

Prospective students show less interest in the list

The U.S. News & World Report's annual Best Colleges Rankings list may be declining in importance for colleges and prospective students alike, reports Ellen Powell for The Christian Science Monitor. 

This Tuesday, the 2017 Best Colleges Ranking went live on the U.S. News site. The list, in its 32nd year of publication, categorizes and then ranks more than 1,800 U.S. schools based largely on student outcomes and peer reputation.

One concern is that the data behind the rankings may not capture the diverse elements of the college experience.

Data measuring alumni giving, for instance, puts schools with more science and technology graduates ahead of schools with more humanities graduates on the rankings list. Because of issues like these, some schools have refused to participate. 

The liberal arts school Reed College in Portland, Oregon, for instance, stopped reporting its data to U.S. News in 1995. Rather than negatively affecting applicant rates, Reed's absence on the U.S. News rankings list actually correlated with a 27% application raise between 1995 and 2005. The average SAT scores for applicants also rose, as did the proportion of professors with PhDs. 

Elizabeth Heaton, a college admissions consultant at College Coach, says the students she works with today are not as interested in college rankings. "They come up less frequently than they used to," says Heaton.

According to Heaton, the students who do look at rankings show a new "willingness to consider all different kinds of rankings," such as the College Scorecard (Powell, The Christian Science Monitor, 9/13).

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