There is an excellent article over at Inside Higher Ed entitled “‘Manipulating,’ Er, Influencing ‘US News’“. It reports on a meeting of institutional researchers, the people at each college responsible for the numbers given to US News, and the efforts at Clemson University to manipulate the date provided.
And Clemson has been successful in their efforts. Since 2001 Clemson has risen from 38th to 22nd in US New’s ranking of public research universities.
I have been critical in the past of colleges that manipulate their data to improve their rankings in US News and similar ranking services and I certainly don’t support Clemson’s approach. But the fact that Clemson is even able to manipulate the data points to the fallacy of relying on the US New’s rankings as anything other than random.
Moreover, US News it self manipulates the data to reach a ranking order that they wish to see.
There are many ways you may try to evaluate the quality of a college or university. The six year graduation rate is an example. But to rely on the rankings of US News or any other ranking that tries to differentiate number 1 from number 2, is a disservice to yourself in trying to find the best college for your needs.