I reported this morning on an article on Inside Higher Ed called “Reputation without Rigor.” One of the comments to that article was by Steven Syverson, the Vice President for Enrollment at Lawrence University in Wisconsin. Steve’s comments were so well said that I asked his permission to repost them on the blog. I agree 100% with Steve’s comments.
“With the exception of the peer rating data (which wouldn’t pass muster as valid social science research at any legitimate college), US News actually does a reasonable job of collecting data. Each of their data elements offers some value in understanding a particular college. The magazine’s mistake is in combining the individual data elements into a single rank for each college. It sells magazines, but it actually does a great disservice to the very students they claim to want to serve. The rankings imply that there is a “best” college and a second and third best college, etc. But “best college” really has meaning only in the context of each student. What serves students well is when college counseling professionals (and parents) help each student find their own best college match. These rankings distort the college search process for many students and, on the other side of the desk, a preoccupation with these rankings can interfere with good decision-making at colleges. One of the strengths of American higher education is the diversity of colleges available — the rankings tend to encourage greater homogeneity rather than celebrating the differences in mission and style of delivery.”
Thank you Steve for saying so well what many of us believe is the problem with college rankings.