Rankings: What does "Best" really mean?


Yesterday the US News and World Report (USNWR) rankings were released -- dubbed by some “the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition” of college lists. Distracting and sometimes deceptive, we think rankings can nevertheless be useful for students and parents if approached correctly. But we strongly urge students and parents not to fall prey to the “best-ism” that is part of the larger cultural phenomenon of status competition and celebrity.

You may want to take a look at this new site from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). Timed to coincide with the USNWR’s Best Colleges edition, this site parts the curtain on rankings for students and parents, examining the methodologies and discussing the meaning of “best.” While you’re there, you might want to also take the opportunity to submit questions about the rankings to another new feature, the Counselor’s Corner

College Admission in the Wall Street Journal

Te Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2012 Should Colleges Be Factories for the 1%? Obama wants the feds to report what a college's graduates earn. That's no way to judge an educational institution. By Robin Mamlet and Christine VanDeVelde In his recently unveiled Blueprint for College Affordability, President Obama calls for "collecting earnings and employment information for colleges and universities, so that students can have an even better sense of the life they'll be able to build once they graduate." In other words, the government wants to publish statistics on what graduates earn after leaving Harvard or Ohio State or Duke. The results are unlikely to surprise. For all the costs of collecting and collating this information—for the sake of reducing the costs of education, no less—it will show what is intuitively obvious: On average, Ivy League grads earn more. But the information will be worse than useless for college-bound students because it will send them all the wrong signals. The Obama administration decries the privilege of the top 1%, yet the president is suggesting that the likelihood of joining that 1% should be a top factor in college selection. That puts the government's imprimatur on the idea that earning potential trumps learning potential—and it runs counter to everything most educators believe in. Earnings power is not a good proxy for educational excellence.