The 2015 U.S. News and World Report college rankings was released early on Tuesday morning, marking the beginning of another admissions cycle.
Despite the anticipation and media coverage it routinely attracts, the rankings are conservative in changing its top 10 schools on an annual basis — this year’s rankings proved no different. The top three remained unchanged from last year with Yale trailing Princeton and Harvard respectively. Stanford and the University of Chicago — who tied for 5th last year — moved up to share the 4th spot with last year’s exclusive holder Columbia University. The same four schools from last year — Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Duke, University of Pennsylvania and the California Institute of Technology — rounded out the top 10.
The college ranking system, which has long held a dominant perch in the realm of higher education, collects and publishes data on nearly 1,800 schools across the nation using a combination of up to 16 metrics including yield rates, selectivity and the standardized scores of the most recently admitted classes. Yet because of missing data and many schools being unwilling to fill out a U.S. News survey, only 1,365 schools are included in the rankings, either numerically or designed as “Rank Not Published.”
Some of this year’s stability was to be expected. U.S. News did not make any changes to their college ranking methodology this year. In contrast, the 2014 rankings stoked debate within the college admissions community after it increased its emphasis on incoming students’ standardized scores in comparison to its predecessors.
Still, despite the scrutiny many high school applicants and media outlets place on the college rankings, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan told the News on Monday that his office does not follow Yale’s ranking closely.
He said his office was not even aware that the widely-followed college rankings would be published on Tuesday until the News contacted him for an interview. Although the University consistently ranks highly in the U.S. News and World Report Rankings, Quinlan said there were considerable flaws or potential pitfalls with a comprehensive college ranking system.
“Any time you try to rank an incredibly diverse set of institutions in an ordinal way, there are going to be issues,” he said. Quinlan added that he was concerned that the metrics of the U.S. News & World Report rankings could incentivize certain schools to overvalue the importance of standardized test scores or prioritize using financial aid resources for merit scholarships at the expense of need-based scholarships.
Instead of a narrow emphasis on selectivity, yield rates and standardized test scores, Quinlan said his office also values bringing a strong class that includes leaders and high-achieving students from a variety of backgrounds.
Yet because of the U.S. News & World Report’s ubiquity and near-monopoly on college rankings, Quinlan said he hopes another ranking system would arise with a more holistic set of metrics.
“We need another gorilla in the room, starting from a place that incentivizes different types of admissions behavior,” Quinlan said.
Just over a year ago, President Barack Obama announced the federal government is in the process of building its own rating system to hold America’s 7,000-odd colleges and universities accountable for performance and to help control rising tuition fees.
Although the Department of Education has yet to publicize an exact date when this ranking will be released or the exact methodology by which universities will be evaluated, Quinlan said he is hopeful that this new federal ranking could challenge the U.S. News & World Report’s historic dominance.
The three remaining Ivy League institutions — Dartmouth, Cornell and Brown — were ranked 11th, 15th and 16th respectively. The University of California, Berkeley was the highest performing public university and was ranked 20th in the country