Jun 12, 2010

US News & World Report May Change Rankings Methodology

US News & World Report rankings guru, Bob Morse takes lots of flack at gatherings of college counselors and others connected with the world of college admissions. As the director of data for USNWR, Morse developed the methodologies and surveys for the America’s Best Colleges and America’s Best Graduate Schools annual rankings. He is both responsible for and guardian of the most lucrative magazine editions produced annually by USNWR.

Confident in his methodologies, Bob Morse usually goes to great lengths to defend how he does what he does. But that’s not to say he isn’t listening. Every now and again, he tweaks his methodology. And at a recent meeting of the Association for Institutional Research he announced a few proposed changes including

• Adjusting the current peer assessment survey by adding high school counselors’ rankings of colleges as part of the academic reputation component
• Including the admit yield (the percentage of accepted students who actually enroll) in the rankings, as a “proxy” for student views of a college
• Increasing the weight of the “predicted graduation rate”
• Eliminating the “third tier” from all rankings tables and extending the ranking to the top 75 percent of schools in each category (National Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, etc.).

Whether you agree or disagree with the USNWR rankings, there’s no question about its popularity among college-bound students and their families. And be assured that colleges and universities are very sensitive about where they rank each year—even if they protest loudly about the foolishness of it all. In fact, some go to great lengths to manipulate numbers and jockey into better position when they think no one is looking.

In the most recent USNWR ranking, the College of William and Mary, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins and UVa appear in the top 50 USNWR National Universities. The US Naval Academy, Richmond, and Washington & Lee rank in the top 50 Liberal Arts Colleges. And Hood College, James Madison University, Longwood, Loyola of Maryland, Mary Baldwin, and the University of Mary Washington rank in the top 25 of regional Masters Universities.

On his blog, Bob Morse invites comments on the proposed changes to the USNWR methodology. So far, the response simply repeats criticism consistently leveled at USNWR. If you have something to add to the discussion, leave a comment on Morse Code. Oh and copy us below.

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