Hennessy, What’s our “Peer Reputation?”

Posted by at 2:55PM

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Even college presidents are getting fed up with U.S. News and World Report’s annual college rankings.
According to the Washington Post, a letter from 12 college presidents including Dickinson College President William G. Durden called the rankings “misleading” and “not in the interest of prospective students in finding a college or university that is well suited to their education beyond high school.”
In particular, a lot of the criticism has centered around the U.S. News’ “peer reputation” survey, which asks school administrators to rank other schools in their region, often as many as 150, according to the Washington Post. Schools can rank from 1 to 5, or answer “don’t know.”
Ultimately, lots of buzz is going around the college administrator circuit hoping to offer as little information as necessary to U.S. News for its annual rankings. Just give them data they could get anyways such as enrollment and transfer rates, degrees conferred and financial aid, some advocate.
In the end, I agree with Robert J. Massa, vice president for enrollment and college relations at Dickinson College, who asks, “Why should we help U.S. News sell magazines?” That is, after all, all they want to do.


If not to sell magazines, how is it that one year Harvard is the best school in the nation, but the following year (last year) Princeton jumped to number one? Did Princeton do something radically different last year to make their school better? Or maybe Harvard started declining somehow.
Having features like a “peer reputation” lends a degree of legitimacy to these revered rankings (at least in theory). But they’re bogus! While we may be too jaded to look at them or pay much attention because we’re already in college, for students and parents looking for guidance, many take it to heart. I’m sure many of us did just a few years back. At the very least, we are proud every year Stanford gets its recognition. Before brushing it off like it’s nothing, of course. How many people were shocked when the fake Daily came out saying we went down to #13 in the rankings?
It’s how people first judge what is a “good” school versus a “great” one. The President of Arizona State was approved by the state’s Board of Regents for a $150,000 bonus to raise the school out of U.S. News’ third-tier status.

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