Grading Higher Education

U.S. News & World Report recently released its 2023 rankings for National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges. The results were not shocking with only minor changes in ranking. However, Columbia University dropped from number 2 to number 18 due to providing false information the previous year. With seniors beginning to create their college applications and scout for colleges, an important question arises: should students even take these rankings seriously?  

U.S. News & World Report infamously uses flawed methodology regarding their rankings for universities and colleges. Only 5% of the ranking methodology factors in how much their graduates are in debt due to student loans and there is no factor in their methodology for how much their school costs. On top of that, U.S. News’ ranking does not factor in the employment rate of a university’s graduates. The other 95% of their ranking is based on nearly meaningless metrics like “Academic Reputation”, standardized testing scores, and alumni giving ratings which are skewed towards wealthy institutions. So, it seems the only thing these rankings care about is the size of a university’s wallet, not the quality of its education and outcomes.  

Forbes Magazine has taken a different approach to ranking universities and colleges. Forbes’ criteria is mainly composed of factors such as alumni salary, debt, and return on investment. Forbes’ system has led to surprising outcomes like the placement of the University of California, Berkeley as the number one university in 2022. The United States educational climate has forced students to take in the financial factors of a college education. So, Forbes’ ranking is much more practical to the average American while U.S. News & World Report’s ranking is more useful for those who can pay out of pocket for college.  

While the Forbes ranking improves on many of the flaws of U.S. News & World Report, the ranking should not be used to decide on a college. No student should base their college application or choice on a ranking. The only person that knows what college is best for you is yourself, not the editors of Forbes or U.S. News & World Report. College rankings are a very useful starting point for your college search. However, you must do your own research to ensure that the college you attend is the best fit for your career goals. I wish you all the best of luck. We got this!