U.S. News & World Report's annual college rankings are out. Harvard beats out
Princeton for the top spot this time, with Yale in third: a slight reshuffling from years past, but not enough of
an upset to generate more than the usual reactions—grousing about the list's irrelevance, tediousness, and potential damage to the university system and, through it, society as a whole.
- Here It Comes Again It's "the day everyone in higher ed acts like they don't really care about," writes The Washington Post's Jenna Johnson.
If you're aching to send the list to a friend, though, she suggests a
few clever conversation starters. For example: "Can you believe they
actually spelled Johns Hopkins correctly on the first try? That's
- 'Flip a Coin,' suggests Lynn O'Shaughnessy
at BNet, to whether Princeton or Harvard gets the top spot. "Or perhaps
the magazine could find a three-headed coin so Yale would also get a
- 'To Be Fair,' writes David Gura for NPR, "U.S. News has compiled some new rankings," like the best schools for B students, the most diverse schools, etc.
- What Harvard Actually Does Do Best No school on this list, says 24/7 Wall St.'s Douglas McIntyre
simply, "can claim that as a whole it it better at educating all of its
students at a higher, better level than the rest." But he offers this
as a more fair statement: "Harvard students are taught by a large
number of worldwide experts on many of the subjects that draw students.
Harvard students are more likely to become rich, famous, or wealthy--or
to go on to be President."
- A Bigger Backlash MSNBC contributor Bill Briggs
covers the hunger strike of an anonymous, unemployed law school
graduate over the U.S. News & World Report's law school rankings.
Briggs explains that the man believes the rankings have too much
influence on school selections "and, eventually, law firm hires. ...
law schools collaborate with the magazine which, Haines argues, skews
the profession's already-brutal entry-level environment."
- Dispatches From the School That Doesn't Do Rankings That would be Reed College. In the November 2005 Atlantic, Reed president Colin Diver
told of how he came from University of
Pennsylvania to be Reed's president, and was won over by
the no-U.S. News & World Report policy. He wrote of the absurdity
of the rankings: the ways of gaming the system, the glossy fliers
schools send out to advertise for the peer evaluations. He also wrote
of how Reed, forgoing the rankings, had been punished by the report and
yet thrived. "Over the past ten years the number of applicants has
increased by 27 percent, and the quality of entering students, as
indicated both by conventional SAT and GPA measures and by Reed's
internal 'reader rating' system, has steadily increased." Some other
Rewarding high retention and graduation
rates encourages schools to focus on pleasing students rather than on
pushing them. Pleasing students can mean superb educational
programs precisely tailored to their needs; but it can also mean
dumbing down graduation requirements, lessening educational rigor,
inflating grades, and emphasizing nonacademic amenities. ... As a
rankings holdout Reed is free to appoint talented young
teacher-scholars, even if they are still completing their
dissertations, without worrying about impairing the college's
"proportion of professors with the highest degree in their fields" ...
Unlike many of our rankings-sensitive peers, we feel no pressure to use
part-time adjunct faculty or teaching assistants as an inexpensive but
educationally dubious technique for even further increasing the
percentage of small classes.
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