Since their beginning in 1983, the U.S. News America's Best Colleges rankings have used a peer assessment survey as one of the indicators of academic excellence. By gathering the opinions of those in a position to judge a school's undergraduate academic quality, the peer survey allows top academics—presidents, provosts, and deans of admissions—to account for intangibles such as faculty dedication to teaching. On the survey, each respondent is asked to rate the quality of peer schools' undergraduate academic programs on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (distinguished). A respondent who is unfamiliar with a school's academic quality can mark "don't know."
In order to maintain the integrity of this peer assessment survey, U.S. News has always ensured complete confidentiality to those academics who have responded. In our cover letter to the survey, we promise confidentiality with the pledge that we "will not publish your individual response." We believe that by offering and maintaining this confidentiality, we receive the most honest opinions of those participants who share their time and expertise.
While we understand that there recently has been a surge in interest in how individual respondents have rated other peer schools surveys, as an editorial policy, U.S. News does not share copies of completed peer assessment surveys with anyone. We recognize that universities, both public and private, might occasionally want to request copies of surveys completed by their respective officials for their records. And we understand that some public universities might receive requests for copies as a result of public records and freedom of information laws. However, U.S. News does not make exceptions to this confidentiality policy. This is not to inconvenience respondents or their respective universities, but rather to manage and maintain the credibility of the peer assessment surveys. We see this as part of our duty to protect our sources.
We value the participation of the higher ed community and invite you to share your thoughts about our policy with us.