Using the Common Data Set

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The massive effort to produce the upcoming America’s Best Colleges rankings for the 2008 Edition of America's Best Colleges is well underway. For the rankings, we collect data from more than 1,450 four-year colleges. We began updating the statistical surveys used to gather the data for the new rankings in December 2006.

U.S. News is one of the founding members of the Common Data Set. We use it as the basis for most of our survey questions. The CDS initiative is a collaborative effort among the data providers in the higher education community and three publishers-- the College Board, Peterson's, and U.S.News & World Report. The goal is to improve the quality and accuracy of information provided to everyone involved in a student's transition to college, as well as to spare data providers the hassle of responding to multiple requests for the same information.

Contrary to what some critics have said about U.S. News, the data used in the America's Best Colleges rankings follow standardized definitions and formats that have been developed through the CDS, the U.S. Department of Education, or through a higher education association such as the American Association of University Professors for faculty salaries or the NCAA for graduation rates. All the data that we publish as part of the rankings are widely used by many members of the Association for Institutional Research, higher education researchers employed by colleges to do peer analysis of other universities.

The 2008 Edition of the America's Best Colleges rankings will be published online on Aug. 17, 2007.  

Upcoming blog entries will cover the peer assessment surveys and go into greater detail on the various fact-checking and quality control efforts we use to make sure the data are as accurate as possible.