New College Rankings Come Under Fire For Favoring Elite Schools

Nathan Francis - Author

Sep. 10 2013, Updated 6:14 p.m. ET

New college rankings from U.S. News and World Report have come under fire for placing too much emphasis on reputation and ignoring other important measures of quality.

The rankings were released on Monday, showing three familiar Ivy League schools in the top spots — Princeton, Harvard, and Yale. The three are typically at the top of the list, and that, critics say, is part of the problem.

The new college rankings use a combination of factors to evaluate schools, including graduation rates, reputation through surveys, and the number of alumni who contribute in the form of donations.

But cost is not a big factor in the college rankings, which critics say skews the list toward schools with well-established reputations.

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“We have discovered people are spending a huge amount of money on higher education without having a good idea about what they are getting for their money,” said Isabel Sawhill, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute. “That has caused the president to put forward a new proposal, which says we need a new college ratings system.”

Obama’s proposed system would evaluate colleges using a scorecard that puts the focus on value rather than reputation. These rankings from the Department of Education would then be used as the basis for federal student aid funding.

Leaders at Howard University, a traditionally black school in the Washington area, see problems with the new college rankings as well. After a period of turbulence including a split among board members, the school dropped from among the top 100 nationally to No. 142 on this year’s list.

“While I am concerned and we will look closely at the data, the U.S. News and World Report rankings represent one indicator of academic quality,” Howard President Sidney A. Ribeau said in a statement.

Ribeau said there are many factors that show Howard’s “exceptional quality” like rising graduation rates and strength in the field of medicine and dentistry, but these are left out of the new college rankings entirely.

The new college rankings from U.S. News & World reports can be found here.


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