Reader J notes this story on the battle over college rankings.

U.S. News & World Report releases its annual college rankings Friday in the face of the loudest and best-organized criticism from educators the magazine has ever encountered.

But for all the complaints that the rankings warp college admissions and distract colleges from educating students, U.S. News still has the upper hand. Colleges are having a hard time quitting the magazine’s annual beauty contest.

Sixty-two colleges have enlisted in an anti-rankings campaign led by education activist Lloyd Thacker. But a quick Web search shows even some of those schools haven’t fulfilled a pledge to stop using their rankings to advertise themselves. And none of the highest-ranked schools have formally signed on.

Interviews by The Associated Press with top officials at about a dozen elite colleges confirm a fault line in the rankings debate that’s more than coincidence: It irks educators everywhere to see colleges ranked like basketball teams. But it irks educators at the top-ranked colleges a lot less.

Indeed. My comments are the same as before. The article includes a Williams mention.

The debate has been raging since the magazine began ranking colleges in the 1980s. But the focus this year is on Thacker, a longtime admissions counselor who has made it his mission to restore educational values to what he calls an over-commercialized college selection process. Thacker has been circulating a letter calling on colleges to boycott a portion of the rankings, to swear off using them for self-promotion, and to develop an alternative — something he also is pursuing.

He’s received lots of attention and encouragement from the top schools. But so far no liberal arts colleges ranked higher than No. 30 on last year’s list has signed the letter, nor have any of the top 100 universities.

Thacker and other rankings opponents acknowledge he’ll eventually need to enlist the big names.

The fight against rankings “must be led by the beneficiaries,” Leon Botstein, the president of Bard College in upstate New York, wrote in a recent letter to U.S. News and to fellow college presidents, saying he would sign on to the protest if schools like Harvard, Princeton and Williams do so first. “To end a corrupt and misleading game, the winners, not the losers, have to call it quits.”

Even though this protest is a pointless waste of time, it has served its fundamental purpose quite well. The focus is on Lloyd Thacker, just where he likes it to be.

Not that there is anything wrong with that!

By the way, has Williams stopped using its #1 US News Ranking, as promised? No! Other, albeit out of date, usages here. Readers are invited to point out their favorites.

Also, what is the betting on where Williams will be ranked this year? Here is a blog with background information. In general, US News fusses with the weighting scheme each year, generating (spurious) movement at the top, and better sales. If Harvard were ranked #1 each year, sales would be less. But I think that the focus in on the universities. There is less reason for U.S. News to generate movement among the liberal arts schools. If Williams does fall out of the top rank, what will be the reason?

My guess is that, if Williams is not #1, Amherst won’t be either since their recent increase in class size has (yet) to be matched by an increase in faculty; so their faculty-to-student ratio has probably gotten worse.

Print  •  Email