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More Colleges Admit to Giving False Data

I was shocked last year when I read that Claremont McKenna had inflated their SAT scores for US News and World Report’s Rankings.  I was surprised when I read about George Washington University reporting false data. I was really disheartened when I read about Bucknell and now that I read that Tulane also tweaked its numbers regarding their Business School, I am just plain fed up.

My very first blog post for Next Stop: College– Sept. 12, 2010– was about college rankings, most notably US News and World Report, and how they are not at all useful in helping students and families decide which colleges are a good fit. I said that parents shouldn’t put much stock in the rankings, “don’t let the actual rank sway you unless you know what methodology they use. US News gives the lion’s share, almost 23%, of its weight to “undergraduate academic reputation” which amounts to administrators at colleges judging their peers. This is no way to assess the fit between your child and a college. That is better done on an individual basis using criteria important to your student.”

US News uses a lot of information that can be quantified and the colleges know that too. Apparently, some have found the temptation to tweak their numbers too great to resist. Too much emphasis on “enrollment management” versus building a community? Maybe. Too much pressure from many factions to get the rankings higher? No doubt.

We have got to get over the idea that everything can and should be ranked.  I have lost count of the number of magazines that will rank this or that aspect of a college or a major, some with unhelpful titles such as “13 Most Useless College Majors”. Again, I disagree with the methodology used for that ranking and therefore its conclusions.

We need to declare an end to this arms race for rankings. We are sending students a terrible message. I am not the first person to say this, but it bears repeating, “College is a match to made, not a contest to be won”.

Janet Rosier