U.S. News and World Report – Best College Rankings

U.S News and World Report recently released its Annual “Best College” Rankings. There is a lot of controversy around these rankings as they seem to favor a certain type of school. The top ranked schools typically cost around $60k per year. Nineteen of the top 20 national universities cost $55,000 or more for a year’s tuition and fees. Schools have been shown to manipulate their data to receive a higher ranking. For example, 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.

The Washington Post (9/12) reported college rankings face “mounting questions about the data that underlie them, the methods used to sort colleges and universities and the intense competition from other publications that churn out best-this and best-that lists in search of clicks from college-bound teenagers and parents.” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona last month declared that any system of ranking colleges that values wealth, reputation, and exclusivity more than economic mobility is “a joke.” Nevertheless, research indicates “rankings can sway college-bound students. A 2019 survey of college freshmen by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA found 15 percent said rankings in national magazines were ‘very important’ in choosing their school. That was up from about 10 percent in 2000.” Moreover, the Post says college and university leaders “are often of two minds about rankings: Dismiss them publicly; obsess about them privately.”

Rankings can be used to get a general guideline about a school, but parents and students should use their own investigation to determine which school is best for them.