Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Friday, June 21
The Indiana Daily Student


Ranking and raving

The Class of 2019’s acceptance letters have already started arriving, prompting a string of #IUSaidYes tweets, which are really quite adorable, along with a tough ?decision.

Should they say yes back? Or will IU have to return the ring?

Evidence suggests U.S. News and World Report rankings significantly influence students’ college choice. It also indicates the rankings are functionally meaningless.

Because landing on U.S. News’ top 25 list can increase the number of applications to a school anywhere from 6 to 10 percent, some American colleges and universities are desperate to move up in rankings by any means ?necessary.

These Machiavellian maneuverings range from simply lying — most of the statistics used to determine U.S. News’ rankings are self-reported — to awkwardly rearranging administrative practices to look more ?prestigious on paper.

As early as 2000, highly ranked colleges have admitted to inflating freshman SAT scores, class rank and ?rejection rates.

Capping classes at 19 instead of 20, making applying easier so rejection rates soar, keeping less-than-stellar students away from campus in the fall so they’re not included in ranking data — oh, and straight-up lobbying U.S. News — launched Northeastern University from 162nd in 1996 to 49th in 2013.

Instead of actually trying, some schools just play the system.

The rankings are even more meaningless when we consider what statistics aren’t included.

The U.S. News and World Report rankings can’t tell you how many Title IX complaints have been filed against the university.

It can’t tell you how safe students feel. It can’t even guarantee the safety data it does provide is accurate, telling students to figure it out themselves.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., has pushed the ?publication to make sexual assault data more integral to rankings, but it is unlikely to make a difference. Universities are already lying.

And yet we still hold our breath when the new ?rankings come out.

Kids and parents still rely on these lists to make decisions about higher education. Current students delight in discovering where their school landed, especially on the list of party schools. Newspapers across the country report on them.

Purdue beat IU overall (62 to 76), and both schools are good for veterans.

The Atlantic’s John Tierney insists students just ignore rankings. Vox’s Libby Nelson suggests schools just stop providing data and go on their merry way.

But students, especially those who can’t afford to go on college visits, need this kind of data aggregation to make an informed decision about their future. And as long as students need U.S. News’ rankings, colleges will attempt to manipulate them.

The ideal solution would be an unbiased ranking system that collects its own data independent of universities.

Students would still have access to a valuable resource. New measures could be ?easily included.

Colleges couldn’t lie so easily.

Manipulation might still occur, but could be limited if connected to disincentives, such as cuts in federal ?funding.

The Obama administration is in the process of developing a system along these lines but is receiving pushback for considering job outcomes and threatening minority and low-income enrollment.

With no viable ranking system to turn to, prospective students’ best bet might be to pin the names of their could-be colleges on a dart board, close their eyes and throw.

Get stories like this in your inbox