College Rankings

January 2, 2015 • Volume 25, Issue 1
Do they accurately reflect school quality?
By Reed Karaim


New graduates walk into the chapel (Getty Images/Bloomberg/Michael Nagle)
New graduates walk into the chapel before commencement on June 2, 2013, at Princeton University, ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the No. 1 national university for 2015 — for the fourth year in a row. The increasing number of college ranking lists has ignited controversy over the influence rankings have on college costs and selectivity and how some schools have attempted to game the rankings. (Getty Images/Bloomberg/Michael Nagle)

The annual rankings of America's colleges and universities, such as those published by U.S. News & World Report, have become a significant force in U.S. higher education. The rankings have been increasingly influential in shaping the reputation of colleges and universities and swaying students’ choices for admission. Being rated a top-tier school can bring an institution more recognition, donations and qualified applicants, while a low ranking can discourage good students from applying. Some lower-ranked schools have tried to game the system to move up in the rankings by changing admissions policies or distorting spending priorities. Critics question the validity of the criteria used to create the rankings and argue that colleges seeking a higher score have been too quick to shape their policies in ways that hurt students. Supporters counter that the rankings provide consumers useful information in an area with few impartial measures of quality.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Colleges and Universities
May 20, 2022  Free Speech on Campus
Dec. 04, 2020  Graduates' Prospects
Sep. 11, 2020  Higher Education in the COVID Era
Oct. 26, 2018  Issues in Higher Education
Nov. 20, 2015  Greek Life on Campus
May 08, 2015  Free Speech on Campus
Jan. 02, 2015  College Rankings
Jan. 18, 2013  Future of Public Universities
Feb. 04, 2011  Crime on Campus
Jan. 07, 2011  Career Colleges
Apr. 21, 2000  Community Colleges
Feb. 16, 1996  Academic Politics
Jan. 05, 1990  What Should College Students Be Taught?
Jul. 27, 1984  Colleges in the 1980s
Jan. 23, 1981  Plight of America's Black Colleges
Apr. 11, 1980  College Admissions
Sep. 06, 1974  College Recruiting
Mar. 01, 1974  Academic Tenure
Sep. 14, 1966  Graduate School Crush
College Financing and Funding
Consumer Behavior
Education Policy
Print Media
Students and Social Life
Undergraduate and Graduate Education