U.S. News Presents at Association for Institutional Research Forum

We discussed methodology changes for the Best Colleges rankings and talked about future modifications.


I just returned from the Association for Institutional Research's 2011 annual forum, "Passport to New Ideas, Better Decisions," held in Toronto. AIR's 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, complete surveys (including the one used for the U.S. News Best Colleges rankings), and do comparisons among peer schools. U.S. News has worked closely with AIR's members for many years and their suggestions have led to improvements in the Best Colleges rankings.

My colleagues Sam Flanigan, U.S. News's deputy director of data research; Diane Tolis, U.S. News's data collection manager; and I gave a presentation at the forum called "U.S.News & World Report's Best Colleges: Details Behind Last Year's Methodology Changes and What Will Be New in 2011." We discussed the methodology changes that were made in the 2011 edition of the Best Colleges rankings (published in August 2010).

The changes included:

· Adding high school counselor rankings of colleges as a variable in the main Best Colleges rankings

· Increasing the weight of graduation rate performance

· Reducing the weight of reputation

· Changing the names of the rankings categories

· Increasing the number of colleges that were ranked.

We talked a great deal about the recent changes made to usnews.com/education and how those would have a positive impact on AIR members. We discussed the upcoming 2012 Best Colleges rankings, which will be live online on Sept. 13, and gave a detailed explanation of how the updated Carnegie Classifications from 2010 will impact our upcoming rankings.

At the forum, we also met with the AIR/U.S. News Advisory Committee, which has been set up to create a dialogue between U.S. News and these higher education researchers. In addition to briefing the committee—which represents a cross-section of colleges and universities in the United States—on the upcoming Carnegie changes, we discussed in detail how U.S. News conducts the high school counselor survey and heard the committee's suggestions on how the survey process and high school counselor rankings could be improved.

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