Gaming the college ranking guide

Steve Henn May 8, 2007

SCOTT JAGOW: It’s that favorite time of year on college campuses around the country — caps and gowns, pomp and circumstance. . . . But the heads of a few schools think it’s a perfect time to get something off their chest. They really don’t like that annual ranking of the best colleges from US News and World Report. Steve Henn explains.

STEVE HENN: Twelve college presidents have sent a letter to thousands of their colleagues asking them to stop participating in US News and World Report’s annual rankings.

WILLIAM DURDEN: Because of this sort of frenzy that can develop, even within higher education to get the rankings, you hear of tricks, machinations that are used.

William Durden, president of Dickinson College, signed on because he believes some colleges feel compelled to manipulate their numbers.

WILLIAM DURDEN: There’s something called the fast app. That is simply where, on the Internet, someone will inquire, simply check a box to receive information about a college. Some colleges, I understand, are counting that as a full application.

That makes the college in question appear more selective and it boosts its rank. Durden says he’s not against rankings per se — but he believes too many people are giving too much weight to a system devised by one magazine.

In Washington, I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.