Equal parts popular and notorious, the U.S. News & World Report annual college rankings are out. And when frenzied high school seniors open the issue at newsstands Monday, they’ll see much the same list they have in previous years.
For the second year in a row, the news magazine ranked Yale second, tied with Harvard and after Princeton. And as in past years, the list is drawing criticism from educators who accuse the magazine of misleading students trying to find the right college and of encouraging them to use numbers to determine the unmeasurable. Critics say picking the best college is more subjective than the magazine’s list implies.
“In the world of excellent schools, some people like one and some people like another,” Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said. “I like this one.”
The newsmagazine used the same method as last year to calculate the rankings, and the colleges near the top of the list saw little change in their standings. The top-five schools are the same as last year’s. Princeton is again ranked first, with Harvard and Yale second, the California Institute of Technology fourth and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology fifth.
This year’s rankings arrive amidst even more controversy than usual. Amy Graham, who oversaw the list for two years until she resigned in 1999, hammered her former employer’s methodology for determining the rankings in the September issue of the Washington Monthly. Graham criticized the magazine for placing too much emphasis on a school’s academic reputation, which is worth 25 percent in the rankings.
On the U.S. News & World Report Web site, the magazine anticipates complaints by calling the rankings an “excellent starting point” but warning students that many factors involved in whether a school is a good fit are not easily measured.
Julie Paneck ’05 said the rankings were a non-issue in her decision to come to Yale. She visited the campus twice and its main selling point was the widespread student satisfaction she discovered, a factor that U.S. News & World Report measures by comparing alumni giving rates.
“Making such major generalizations, you don’t know any of the nuances that a school has to offer,” Papanek said. “You don’t see in the numbers that on campus there are groups walking around together with people that obviously care about each other.”