I just returned from Boston and the North East Association for Institutional Research's 2011 annual conference, "Leading the Charge for Institutional Research." This annual meeting of college researchers and analysts from colleges and universities in the Northeast was among the largest in its history.
I was joined at the conference by two U.S. News colleagues—Evan Jones, strategic analytics; and Chris Petrie, education analyst—who are in charge of the some of the new data products U.S. News has released in 2011.
During the U.S. News sessions at the conference, we discussed many issues relating to the recently published 2012 edition of U.S. News's Best Colleges rankings and many other aspects of what U.S. News does and plans to do in the future in terms of academic rankings and data.
Some of the highlights:
• U.S. News plans to continue publishing our annual Best Colleges and Best Graduate Schools ranking guides.
• There will be new Best High Schools rankings published again in 2012.
• The entire Education section of usnews.com was completely redesigned in February 2011 and offers a great deal of new functionality and content to users. The College, Grad, and Online Education sites have been combined into one site; a portal page for each school has been created; more sophisticated search capabilities were added; and a "rankings" tab was created on school pages so all numerical academic rankings for a school are now accessible in one place.
We also discussed:
• I reviewed the major methodology changes from the recently published 2012 Best Colleges.
• I explained the background behind the upcoming Online Education degree program rankings that are planned for early 2012.
• I reviewed the status of the U.S. News partnership with the National Council on Teacher Quality that has a goal to produce rankings in 2012 of 1,000 teacher preparation programs.
• Evan Jones reviewed My Fit, an internally developed search and matching engine for prospective students to determine possible school matches that is part of our College Compass product and the recently released U.S. News Academic Insights, a product for academic institutions that is a web-based dashboard of all published Best Colleges and Best Graduate Schools ranking data since 1988 for Best Colleges and 1994 for Best Graduate Schools.
Institutional researchers 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 institutional researchers for many years and their suggestions have led to improvements in the Best Colleges rankings.