U.S. News & World Report this week released its annual college rankings, which include data on nearly 1,800 colleges and universities. This year, Princeton came out on top of the national university rankings, while Williams College stayed in the top spot among national liberal arts schools.
This year, the rankings formula was changed to place more emphasis on student outcomes. "U.S. News strives to provide students and their families with the most comprehensive data available," said U.S. News' director of data research, Bob Morse, in a statement. "Measuring outcomes is critical to understanding how well a school retains and educates its students." High school rank, meanwhile, received less weight than in years past.
Of course, the release of the rankings also brought out the critics. Here's a sampling of the headlines: "Why U.S. News' college rankings hurt students"; "Why U.S. News college rankings shouldn't matter to anyone." Critics claim that the rankings give universities bad incentives when it comes to raising tuition and ginning up oversized pools of applicants; they also claim that the rankings don't place enough emphasis on affordability or the job prospects of graduates.
Even President Obama got in on the action recently, when, while announcing that the U.S. Department of Education would be releasing college ratings of its own, he said, "Right now, private rankings like U.S. News & World Report puts out each year encourages a lot of colleges to focus on ways to game the numbers, and it actually rewards them, in some cases, for raising costs. I think we should rate colleges based on opportunity. Are they helping students from all kinds of backgrounds succeed?"
So are college rankings a good thing? Here's the Debate Club's take:
Paul Glastris Editor in Chief of the Washington Monthly
Ben Miller Senior Policy Analyst at the New America Foundation
Brian Kelly Editor of U.S. News & World Report
Philip Altbach Director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College