La Salle University Official Discusses Impact of College Rankings

A school vice president details working with U.S. News to improve external data reporting.

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John F. Dolan, vice president for enrollment services at La Salle University in Pennsylvania has written to U.S. News about the process of supplying data for our Best Colleges rankings, how U.S. News has worked with La Salle to correct missing information for prospective students and our readers, and how to set up data reporting systems to prevent such problems from occurring.

In Dolan's words, this is what happened at La Salle after the 2012 edition of the Best Colleges rankings were published on Sept. 15, 2011:

It's been decades since La Salle University began to participate in the U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges ranking program. In the early years, most of this information was filed the old fashioned way. Paper questionnaires and snail mail were the primary means of contact between the school and the staff at U.S. News.

Over the years, the participating institutions, including La Salle, as well as U.S. News, transformed their processes from paper to paperless. Streamlining and modernizing. For all of us in education, these past 15 or so years have been a time of astonishing change for our schools, our industry, and even our world because of technology and the impact it has on our organizations.

But technology can lead to new challenges and opportunities. In this current round of ranking institutions, important information from La Salle University did not reach the staff at U.S. News. Requests made to unresponsive email accounts and lack of redundancy and back-up personnel on these email accounts caused the confusion. As a result, La Salle did not provide this data, and it had a significant impact on La Salle's rankings.

U.S. News depends on schools themselves to provide accurate and complete data for the Best Colleges rankings. Where it's possible, U.S. News cross checks reported data and fills in missing data using other public sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education. When a school has missing data, U.S. News does make estimates of that data based on what was reported for that data point by other schools in the same college ranking category.

When I contacted my colleagues at U.S. News about this situation, I learned in great detail about the steadfastness of their fundamental values and standards that U.S. News has maintained over the years. I believe it is because of this commitment to their core values that U.S. News agreed to work with La Salle University to correct the information that parents and students would gather on La Salle University from the U.S. News online ranking guide. U.S. News understands the importance of students and their families having access to the most up to date and accurate information about the schools they are investigating. Readers trust U.S. News to bring them this information and in turn U.S. News works to provide their consumers with just that.

For other institutions that participate in the U.S. News survey, I'm suggesting that you, like La Salle University, review all of the email contact points for the U.S. News survey requests. The U.S. News staff walked us through how to build back-up systems for each of the survey instruments to insure that missing or incomplete data never impacts our rankings in the future.

La Salle University contacted U.S. News to provide the correct information and the staff at U.S. News was willing to listen. U.S. News and La Salle University worked together to ensure that the correct information, to the best of our ability, is displayed so as to not misinform their readers. La Salle University appreciates the partnership we have with U.S. News and looks forward to continuing to participate in the U.S. News Rankings program."

U.S. News thanks La Salle for its willingness to work with us to improve its data reporting so we can publish the most accurate and complete data.