Opinion | The Problem With College Rankings, and How We Fix It

And maybe we’re getting closer to the day when that won’t happen. Since publishing my book on all of this, “Where you go is not who you will become: An antidote to the college admissions frenzy,” in 2015, I have seen little progress, especially in the past year. In November, Yale and Harvard announced that their law school will no longer participate in the US News rankings. Several similarly revered law schools and several top medical schools have followed suit. Then last month, University of Colorado draws of the US News national rankings of colleges, although it has consistently made the top 30. In a statement explaining that decision, Its president observes that rankings are primarily driven by an organization’s overall wealth and reputation. Both measures tend to be self-sustaining. Neither of them tell students much about what their experience at school will be like.

“I have a lot of hope that this is the turning point,” Angel Pérez, executive director of the National Association of College Admission Counselors, told me recently. Pérez has worked in college admissions for decades — he was the admissions officer at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., for many years. Change is certainly appropriate, he says, because too many students are simply taking the most obvious cues from the culture around them, clinging to national brands or area seems vaguely reliable. On a trip around the country to talk to potential college applicants, he had students reflexively declare, “I want to go to Harvard!”

“And I would say, ‘Where is Harvard?’ They couldn’t tell me,” he recalls.

Of course, most high school students who want a college degree cannot and do not harbor such ambitions. They need to go to college part-time, choose public schools within walking distance of their parents’ home, choose the cheapest option, or find a place where most people go, because they have struggled to finish high school. and emerged with a not-so-remarkable scoreboard. . Only a privileged minority of young adults can even think of playing “The Hunger Games,” and many of them simply spin in whatever direction all the other contestants are headed.

Brian Casey, president of Colgate University, surprised me: “Our applications, which had hovered around 9,000 for years, suddenly doubled to 17,500. Then they grew to more than 21,000. We had to turn down students who wanted to visit, and we found ourselves looking at an acceptance rate of 10%. Does this prevent students from applying? Are not. We see growing interest. I’m wondering: Is Colgate more popular because it’s more popular?”

Yes Yes. Higher education is a market. And many of its consumers care more about how they can transact outside of their college degree than how it will transform them on the inside. David Schanzer, a professor of public policy at Duke, said: “I witnessed this first-hand during a lunch with freshmen who had just unloaded their bags the day before. . written in December in his newsletter, Perilous Times. “I started the conversation over lunch by asking students what they were most looking forward to in college and, I’m not kidding, one of them asked me what activities they should do for dinner. maximize your chances of getting into law school. When I replied that the best way is to find something they love and do it well and Duke doesn’t have a pre-law program, the students’ response was, ‘Why not?’”


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