On Monday, U.S. News unveiled its influential undergraduate college rankings. These rankings continue to attract both fascination and criticism. Despite some significant moves within the top 14 schools, the list is still dominated by Ivy League and highly selective institutions. The ranking methodology has been revised partially in response to recent criticisms.
Officials from colleges have long complained that the U.S. News rankings encourage behavior that may not always be in the best interest of students. Even Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona criticized the rankings. At a conference organized by Harvard and Yale, Cardona called for an end to the “worship” of these rankings. He argued that colleges often devote resources to improving their rankings instead of benefiting students. Despite top law and medical schools withdrawing from the professional rankings, undergraduate colleges, including those whose professional schools defected, still largely participate in the undergraduate rankings.
One notable school, Columbia University, announced earlier this year that it would not share undergraduate data with U.S. News. This came after the school dropped from No. 2 to No. 18 due to allegations of submitting “highly misleading” statistics. Columbia later admitted the flawed data. This year, Columbia tied for the No. 12 spot.
The University of Chicago dropped six spots to No. 12 in the rankings, while Duke University climbed three spots to No. 7. Duke’s rise in the rankings comes after concerns about its lack of economic diversity were raised by The New York Times. Duke’s president, Vincent Price, responded to the criticisms by acknowledging that there is more work to be done in promoting socioeconomic diversity.
Changes have been made to the U.S. News methodology this year in response to criticisms. More than half of a school’s ranking is now based on post-graduate success, including graduation rates for first-generation and low-income students. Acceptance rate and several other factors have been removed from the rankings. These changes are seen as a step in the right direction, as they emphasize colleges that help improve students’ chances of success. However, it is noted that colleges providing economic mobility are often not the ones in the spotlight of high-profile rankings.
While the changes to the methodology have benefited many schools and allowed them to rise in the rankings, none of the schools that made significant jumps cracked the top 150.