NACAC Issues More Results From College Rankings Report

NACAC report shows how much influence college rankings have over school behavior and policy.

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The NACAC/U.S. News & World Report Ad Hoc Committee recently published the next phase of its study on the attitudes of college admission counseling professionals toward the U.S. News Best Colleges rankings. This report is called How NACAC Members Use U.S. News & World Report Rankings—The Second in a Three-Part Series.

U.S. News wrote about the National Association for College Admission Counseling's first report in NACAC Issues First Report on Best Colleges Rankings.

Highlights from this report include:

1. Does your college promote rankings in marketing strategy? The survey results found that 71.3 percent of the colleges promote their rank in marketing, though most do so "in a limited fashion." Despite having negative views toward the rankings, a very large percent of colleges use them very widely in their marketing efforts to prospective students and their parents.

2. How much time was spent discussing the ranking with students and families? NACAC's high school members said that 65.2 percent of them spent some time or a great deal of time discussing the rankings with students and their families. Though 62 percent of all NACAC members discuss the U.S.News & World Report rankings with students and families, the report shows that only 16.5 percent make a copy of the undergraduate ranking guide available for students to use in their offices. This probably means that there is a large demand by prospective college students and their parents for information about the rankings and that, despite having negative feeling toward the rankings, high school counselors discuss the U.S. News rankings with them.

3. Do the U.S. News rankings "put pressure on institutions to invest in strategies and practices primarily for the purpose of maintaining or strengthening position in the rankings," either consistently or occasionally? An overwhelming majority (95.1 percent) of NACAC's members at both colleges and high schools believe that "Yes, colleges either occasionally or consistently invest in strategies and policies to improve in the rankings."

There were some benefits cited from the rankings in the report: "Some members argued that the pressure to improve rankings can benefit schools, colleges, and students by encouraging policies that improve certain student-centered features, including retention rate and class size." On the other side, the report said that NACAC's "members commonly reported being pressured by their institutions' presidents, trustees, and faculty to adopt strategies that would increase their rank."

4. Does your school or institution make programmatic changes because of rankings? The report concluded that 54.1 percent of NACAC's members representing colleges reported that their particular institutions do not make any programmatic changes based on the ranking. However, it said that 7.6 percent say that their school consistently makes changes and 38.4 percent say that their schools make changes occasionally because of the rankings.

This is one the more interesting results of the study, since as the NACAC report says, "college respondents' beliefs that institutions are 'gaming' the rankings generally seems to apply to other colleges, whereas they are less likely to perceive their own institution as manipulating the process."

The report's results prove that the U.S. News rankings are having a significant impact on NACAC's members and colleges as well as being influential in the college search process. U.S. News stands ready to have ongoing discussions with NACAC on the many complex issues raised in the report.

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