US News needs a change; Now.


In my senior year of high school, I had the top 25 US News undergraduate college rankings memorized. The tied ranking of 25th from the University of Michigan and Carnegie Mellon was seared into my brain. Although there is a smorgasbord of different college rankings, US News arguably has the most influence on how applicants think about elite colleges. I spent endless hours looking at the US News list for a reason: It was something seemingly objective that I could make my judgments about. Deciphering and consolidating thousands of different opinions and points of view is next to impossible, but the rankings offer a foothold from which to orient yourself.

Opinions about school quality vary widely and are often based on incomplete information. For example, my father never considered the University of Chicago to be as prestigious as the other top 10 universities, even though it is ranked the sixth best university in the country. Similarly, as immigrants from India, my parents’ knowledge of American schools other than Harvard, Yale, and Princeton is limited. Whatever the reason, the fact is that we all, to some degree, have different perspectives on American universities. And as a result, rankings like US News help structure a chaotic college admissions process. That’s why he used to be a strong supporter of them.

As you can imagine, it’s a big deal that Columbia University’s national ranking in US News recently dropped from second to 18th. As a well-known and prestigious university, the drastic drop in its ranking came as a surprise to many. Columbia was found to have sent falsified data to US News. Specifically, a math professor named Michael Thaddeus found discrepancies that made undergraduate class sizes appear smaller than they are, spending on instruction seemed higher than it is, and professors seemed more educated than they were. As the scandal unfolds, many are asking the same questions: What really goes into college rankings? Do the rankings really reflect the quality of a school’s education? While this all started for me with the commotion around Columbia’s new ranking, now I have only one thought left: Does this ranking system, which many of us once relied on, really reflect the quality of a student’s education? school?


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