Late last month, U.S. News editors and staffers met with a diverse group of deans of admissions and enrollment management from U.S. colleges to solicit feedback on the Best Colleges rankings and methodology and get their views on timely higher education issues. Since 1992, U.S. News has held a similar annual meeting with an independent advisory board of U.S. college admissions deans.
We always find these meetings to be highly beneficial. Here is a sampling of the topics from this year's meeting.
• Data misreporting: In 2012, Emory University, Claremont McKenna College, and George Washington University publicly announced that they had misreported rankings data to U.S. News—and in some cases other external bodies including the U.S. Department of Education. What are the implications of such misreporting for U.S. News and U.S. higher education?
• High school class rank: An increasing number of high schools nationwide are no longer calculating high school class standing for their students to be used as part of colleges' assessments of applications. When does U.S. News need to adjust the weight of high school class standing, which now has a 6 percent weight in our Best Colleges rankings methodology?
• New income-based graduation rate data: In 2012, U.S. News collected new data on income-based college graduation rates, and we published some of it in the Morse Code blog: graduation rates of low-income students versus all students, and graduation rates of high-income students versus all students. These graduation rate data are not collected by the U.S. Department of Education and were not used by U.S. News in the 2013 edition of our rankings. Is it worthwhile to publish these data, and should the data be used in future Best Colleges rankings?
• Online education program rankings: U.S. News published online education rankings for the first time in January 2012, and new rankings are coming in January 2013. What are the views on these rankings? Are we on the right track?
Higher education trends
• International student recruitment and retention: International students are increasingly coming to the United States to study. How is international student recruitment being handled, and what are some overall trends from the past year? What is the role of agents in the U.S. college application process? Are institutions experimenting with any new on-campus programming specifically geared toward retaining international students? What types of international student programs have worked well?
• Student debt: Have schools seen a significant rise in the questions that applicants and parents are asking about the potential for having a significant amount of student debt at graduation? How about from current students and their parents? If so, how have schools responded?
• Online courses: What do schools think about the trend of massive open online courses (MOOCs) being offered by a growing number of leading U.S. colleges? Are institutions increasingly offering or requiring online courses?