The latest US News college rankings are out and the best colleges for 2002 are… No, the 2002 isn’t a typo. Princeton, Harvard and Yale are one, two and three respectfully in the National Universities category for 2002 as well as 2008. Amherst, Swarthmore and Williams are in those positions in the liberal arts colleges in 2002. Sure for 2008 it’s a major upset with Williams at number one and then Amherst and Swarthmore. (For those of you new to this blog, that last sentence was sarcasm.)
My point, as I have often said, is that people get way to caught up in where each college ranks according to the US News criteria which by the way changes every year anyway. Students and their families need to be concerned about whether the colleges they are looking at attending meet their needs, not some artificial ranking scheme. Did Williams really improve in 2008 compared to 2002. No. Williams is by almost any measure a wonderful college but it is no better today than it was in 2002.
The most unfortunate thing coming out of the latest rankings is the punishment that US News is giving certain colleges that are not using standardized tests in the admissions process. Sarah Lawrence College and Gustavus Adolphus College are two such examples. These colleges have been put into the “unranked” category because of their refusal to play the game that US News wants to play. This reminds me of the petty punishment that US News first gave Reed College when they refused to provide information that US News wanted.
In the past I have said that if people want to use the information provided by US News on such topics as the graduate rate or admission rate of various colleges that the ratings were appropriate for that use. However, at this point, I would suggest that people ignore these ratings altogether and use alternative sources for such information. One such source for much of the same information is the IPEDS/COOL database of the US Department of Education. Here you can find the needed information without the silly games played by US News in their arbitrary ranking guides.