I just returned from the AIR's 2007 Annual Forum "Choice/Chance: Driving Change in Higher Education," held in Kansas City, Mo. The association members work at almost every U.S. college and university where, among other things, they study higher education trends on their campuses, conduct surveys of students, fill out surveys (including the one used for the U.S. News rankings), and do comparisons among peer schools.
On June 5, Sam Flanigan (U.S. News's deputy director of data research) and I gave a presentation called "America's Best Colleges: What Will Be New in 2007 and How U.S. News Will Implement the New Carnegie Classifications." A few hundred people attended.
At the forum, we also met with AIR's "Research Advisory Committee to U.S. News," which has been set up to create a dialogue between U.S. News and these higher education researchers. In addition to the Carnegie changes, we talked about how U.S. News measures economic diversity with Pell grant data, including how that information could be used in the rankings methodology. The committee seemed to favor adding Pell grants to the formula. We also discussed who should be considered alumni when U.S. News measures alumni giving rates.