A Change in U.S. News’ Rankings Methodology


Next week, U.S. News  & World Report will receive millions of hits on its website when it unveils its new 2014 college rankings for nearly 1,800 schools.

U.S. News will release its latest batch of controversial college rankings on Sept. 10.

Robert Morse, who oversees the rankings, announced on his blog that the rankings system has received an overhaul. He characterized the changes to the rankings methodology as “significant”  and noted that many schools rankings will change from the 2013 rankings.

In his blog, Morse offered a preview of some of the changes and none of them struck me as improving what is essentially a collegiate beauty contest.

You can see the changes Morse shared in his blog here:

Preview: Methodology Changes for 2014 Best College Rankings

Two years ago I interviewed Morse about the rankings at a large college conference in New Orleans. I’d urge you to listen in on the short interview.

Read More From The College Solution:

How U.S. News’ College Rankings Can Hurt You

4 Reasons to Ignore U.S. News’ College Rankings

U.S. News’ Rankings vs. Obama’s Proposed College Ratings


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  1. The change in methodology is the factor that I think Derek Bok called US News out on. They keep changing their system, rankings keep changing “significantly” and as he said, there is no way for colleges to change that much in quality in a single year, so it’s much more an indicator of bad journalism than bad schools. (Though Forbes is much more guilty of volatile rankings, actually, because they use metrics from self-selecting sources.)

    As a non-professional college “hobbyist” I read U.S. News every year, but I always think that if they said a hospital was great for treating heart conditions one year, and then “whoops, we redid our methodology, and actually it’s not that good” they’d get in trouble.

    I think the change in methodology must be to sell magazines, and it makes me wish that A) I fully understood the evaluations from the NSSE and B) all the schools reported them.

  2. Chicken or egg? Many colleges are now putting more emphasis on test scores in college admissions. so they can improve their ranking in US News and World Reports. US News and World Reports is now alleging they are putting more weight on test scores because they have become more important in college admissions. Shouldn’t somebody ask the question whether increasing median test scores of an institution is improving the college or the college experience of the students who attend there?

    1. Schools that have higher SAT/ACT scores will have wealthier students attending the school. These standardized tests are highly correlated with income. On average, a child whose parents make $200,000 a year will earn a higher SAT score than a child whose parents make $125,000 an year and on down the income ladder. No surprise that private AND public institutions have been giving an increasing amount of scholarship money to wealthy students in hopes that they will help them improve their rankings. It’s all pretty sick.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy