US News and World Report College Rankings: Hot Off the Press, Controversial as Ever

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US News and World Report released its annual college rankings online today and will publish them in next week’s print issue. If the US News and World Report College Rankings can be counted on for just one thing, it’s stirring up contoversy. The US News and World Report College Rankings attempt to establish a hierarchy among United States colleges and universities. Like any hierarchical system, the US News and World Report College Rankings are subject to interpretation and dispute. “Best” is not an objective term, after all, even when predicated on objective standards.

Already the winners are boasting, the losers are posturing, and the wannabes are claiming victory in their dubious standings. Some schools boycotted the peer review process that contributes to the rankings, disenchanted with the process and its anticipated results.

The US News and World Report College Rankings actually comprise several related lists. There’s a list for National Universities, one for Liberal Arts Colleges, and one for up and coming schools. US News and World Report also compiles Quick Comparisons to enable list users to identify schools offering the best values, those with the most ethnic diversity, economic diversity or foreign students, or the highest freshman retention rate.

US News and World Report College Rankings: Who’s on Top?

The complete US News and World Reports College Rankings can be read online here.

US News College Rankings for National Universities

US News and World Report identifies these universities as the top 10 national universities: 1. Harvard, 2. Princeton, 3. Yale, 4. MIT and Stanford, 6. CIT and Penn, 8. Columbia, Duke, and Chicago. My own alma mater, Boston College, ranked a not too shabby 34.

US News College Rankings for Liberal Arts Colleges

The top 10 liberal arts colleges according to US News and World Reports are: 1. Amherst and Williams, 3. Swarthmore, 4. Wellesley, 5. Middlebury, 6. Bowdoin and Pomona, 8. Carleton, 9. Davidson, 10. Haverford.

US News College Rankings for Best Value

US News and World Reports College Rankings for best value consider the amount of financial aid typically available in the form of need based grants to reduce the cost of attendance. Accordingly, the list of Best Value schools is not even close to synonymous with the nominally least expensive schools.

According to US News and World Reports, the top 10 Best Value schools include: 1. Harvard, 2. Princeton, 3. Yale, 4. MIT, 5. Stanford, 6. CIT, 7. Dartmouth, 8. Columbia, 9. UNC-Chapel Hill, 10. Rice. I was pleasantly surprised to find my alma mater Boston College on this list in 38th place.

US News and World Report College Rankings: Are they Useful?

Overall Quality

US News and World Reports College Rankings are one tool for evaluating a college or university’s status. Upon graduation, the status of the college or university attended is a relevant factor to many employers. So while the difference between the #2 school and the #6 school may not be significant, the difference between attending a top 20 school and a bottom 20 school may have some significance among the many factors that contribute to a graduate’s success.

Admission Rates

The College Rankings provide a quick index for comparing admission rates. An applicant may find this information helpful in narrowing the list of schools to which he will submit applications. If two similarly appealing schools have acceptance rates of 10% and 20% respectively, he may opt for the school with a higher acceptance rate, particularly if he is economizing on the number of schools to which he will apply.

Diversity

Whether a prospective student is seeking an environment with significant numbers of similar economically situated or ethnically composed students- or is looking to be the unique standout among his peers- the diversity rankings help evaluate the school composition.

As someone who came from a bottom rung socio-economic background and found myself floundering among upper middle class peers in college, I might have benefited from exploring the implications of being the poor girl in the rich kids’ world and consulting such rankings in making a college choice.

International Students

The school with the most international students, New School in New York, has 22%, US News and World Reports says in its College Rankings. FIT, IIT, Carnegie-Mellon, and the University of Bridgeport round out the top 5, while the 6 -10 slots are filled by Andrews, Polytechnic, University of Tulsa, Penn, and SUNY-Buffalo.

With the world becoming increasingly multicultural and border friendly, many working adults now travel internationally as a regular part of their jobs. Learning to get along with students from different countries and becoming familiar with their languages and customs while in college could prove an advantage in the student’s search for employment and adjustment to the working world.

Sources: http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/college/;http://www.mcall.com/news/local/all-a4_5rankings.6555555aug22,0,2641029.story;http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iUunRem0s3dCln7_7jnuHGcfNg9wD92N7QVO7; http://www.startribune.com/local/27253064.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aULPQL7PQLanchO7DiUsA;http://www.statefansnation.com/index.php/archives/2008/08/22/us-news-and-world-report-college-rankings-released/