U.S. News already is already working hard on the upcoming 2011 edition of the America's Best Colleges rankings, scheduled to be published in August 2010.
This week we're in the process of mailing out the annual peer assessment surveys of undergraduate academic quality that will be used as part of the new America's Best Colleges rankings. The peer assessment surveys account for 25 percent of a college's ranking; 75 percent of a school's ranking is based on a formula that uses objective measures of academic quality such as graduation and retention rates, admission statistics, and financial and faculty resource data. U.S. News knows that peer assessments are subjective, but they are also important—a diploma from a distinguished college can help a graduate get a good job and gain admission to a top-notch graduate program, just as a high school's reputation can help or harm an applicant's chances of getting into a good college.
The 10 separate academic reputation surveys are mailed to schools in these U.S. News ranking categories: National Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, Universities-Master's, and Baccalaureate Colleges. The latter two categories are divided into four geographic areas: North, South, Midwest, and West. Each school gets three surveys, and college presidents, provosts, and admission deans at about 1,420 colleges and universities should start receiving their individual surveys soon. Respondents have roughly eight weeks to return the surveys.
Some of the key information we seek through these surveys:
—Which schools are best at undergraduate teaching? We have asked respondents to nominate up to 10 colleges (from their U.S. News ranking category) where the faculty have an unusually strong "commitment to undergraduate teaching."
[See the current rankings for best in undergraduate teaching.]
—Which schools are up and coming? We are asking respondents as part of the undergraduate academic quality surveys to nominate up to 10 "up-and-coming institutions" from their U.S. News ranking category. These are the schools that everyone is—or should be—looking at because they are making the most promising and innovative changes on their campuses.
[See the current up-and-coming rankings. ]
We'll also be mailing a separate set of peer assessment surveys that are used to calculate the undergraduate business, undergraduate engineering, and historically black university rankings (HBCU) to be published in late August 2010.
Finally, U.S. News will again ask high school counselors nationwide in separate surveys for their views on undergraduate programs in the National Universities and Liberal Arts Colleges ranking categories. We'll also ask the same high counselors to list their favorite colleges from these four U.S. regions: North, South, Midwest, and West. We believe that high school counselors from top high schools have unique knowledge of the quality of undergraduate programs in this country that will be extremely valuable to readers of U.S.News & World Report's America's Best Colleges.