NYT op-ed writer calls rankings a 'joke'

Rankings 'can't adjust for how well certain colleges serve certain ambitions'

College rankings aren't all they're cracked up to be, Frank Bruni argues in the New York Times' "Sunday Review." 

Bruni takes aim at U.S. News & World Report's rankings for:

  • Favoring the most affluent, selective institutions;
  • Failing to recognize public institutions that focus on access and affordability; and
  • Failing to recognize the particular strengths of individual campuses.

He argues that these rankings don't acknowledge colleges that—though they lack the exclusivity and prestige of the Ivy League—may do more to support student success.

Bruni points to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) as an example. UMBC, with a nearly 60% acceptance rate, places 159th on U.S. News' national university rankings. But those figures don't fully capture what UMBC stands for, Bruni says.

Bruni praised the university for its strong record of guiding black undergraduates toward doctorate and other postgraduate degrees in STEM fields. It's also incredibly diverse both racially and socioeconomically.  About 45% of students are white, 18% are Asian, and 16% are black. Together, students represent more than 100 countries. More than 25% of undergraduates also qualify for Pell Grants. 

Students and faculty alike have been wooed by Ivy League and other highly selective institutions, but members of the UMBC community say the opportunities the school has afforded them are unparalleled.

Meanwhile, Bruni says, rankings such as U.S. News' rely on factors that are easier to quantify, but don't offer a complete picture of a college's worth, such as the six-year graduation rate.

"Intentionally or not, they fuel a frenzy to get into the most selective schools," Bruni writes.

"They can't adjust for how well certain colleges serve certain ambitions" (Bruni, "Sunday Review," New York Times, 9/17). 


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