For many years now, the US News “America’s Best Colleges” rankings have compiled a single aggregate list of universities in the United States.
Many have written about the problem with the college ranking system, but none quite so well as Malcolm Gladwell in “The Order of Things”.
Can universities be ranked?
Any system of ranking is going to favor certain factors over others and the US News rankings are no exception. They are favorable to private, wealthy institutions and fail to take into account many of the factors which are more important to the majority of parents and students.
Gladwell points out that “at a time when American higher education is facing a crisis of accessibility and affordability, we have adopted a de-facto standard of college quality that is uninterested in both of those factors.” In other words, the US News rankings don’t favor quality schools that are affordable and easier to get admitted to.
Universities Keep Competing for Rankings
Despite the flaws in the US News ratings, universities around the country continue to invest in improving their spot.
Is the time, energy, and money spent worth it? Should universities continue to mass broadcast out applications with the intention of increasing selectivity? Should deans promising higher spots in the rankings be taken seriously?
Higher education should stop wasting time and effort on improving its US News rankings and instead focus on improving quality while reducing costs.