What May Change in Upcoming College Rankings

U.S. News is considering changing the methodology for the upcoming America's Best Colleges rankings.

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I just returned from the 50th annual meeting of the Association for Institutional Research in Chicago. The annual meeting of college researchers and analysts was the largest in the association's history.

I gave a session there called "U.S. News & World Report's America's Best Colleges: What Will Be New in 2010 and What Methodology Changes Were Made Last Year and Why." I discussed many issues that relate to the upcoming 2011 edition of the America's Best Colleges rankings.

Here are some of the changes that I mentioned regarding the upcoming edition of the rankings, which will be published in August:

U.S. News will publish its second public high school counselor rankings of colleges in our National Universities and Liberal Arts Colleges ranking categories.

—We will publish new rankings for Up and Coming Schools, Schools that Do the Best Job at Teaching Undergrads, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

In addition, I discussed methodology changes that U.S. News is considering:

—We may add high school counselors' rankings of colleges as part of the academic reputation component, which is now 25 percent of the America's Best Colleges rankings. To do this, we would reduce the weight of the regular peer assessment survey for the National Universities and Liberal Arts Colleges categories.

—We are considering combining the scores from the current peer assessment survey rating done by college academics with the scores and high school counselors' ranking of colleges. That combination of scores could be called the "undergraduate academic reputation index."

—We are considering adding the admit yield—the percentage of students that the school accepts that enroll at that school in the fall—back into the rankings. Yield is a very good proxy for student views, because it's how much students value their acceptance from that particular college. If yield is added back into the rankings, it will be part of the undergraduate academic reputation index variable.

—We may slightly increase the weight of the "predicted graduation rate" that currently accounts for 5 percent of the National Universities and Liberal Arts Colleges rankings. The predicted graduation rate has been a well-received variable by some higher education researchers, because it measures outcome and rewards schools for graduating at-risk students, many of whom are receiving federal Pell grants.

—We are contemplating eliminating the Third Tier from all the National Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, Master's Universities, and Baccalaureate Colleges rankings tables in print and online. We would extend the numerically ranking to the top 75 percent of all schools in each category, up from the top 50 percent now. There would still be the bottom 25 percent of each category listed alphabetically, and that group might be renamed to something like the 4th Quartile. We believe that the data is strong enough to numerically rank more schools, and the public is asking for more sequential rankings since it's less confusing than listing schools in tiers.

What do you think of these proposed changes? Leave a comment below.