New York City, NY — by Alexandra Cohen
This story was originally published on New York University’s Washington Square News.
Leading up to my senior year of high school, my party trick was reciting the top 50 schools in US News & World Report’s rankings from memory. It’s embarrassing to admit that its standing on some silly list was one of the biggest factors I considered when choosing which schools to apply to and which to ultimately attend.
Now that I’m actually in college, the top 50 schools and their order have faded from my mind, and the fact that I go to the supposedly 28th-best school in the country doesn’t impact my daily life as much as I once thought it would. My perspective was toxic, and my urge to compare was only a hindrance, but the fact that these rankings continue to exist is the worst of all.
The New York Times reported last week on the findings of Columbia University’s Michael Thaddeus that Columbia’s rise — from No. 18 at the list’s 1988 conception to No. 2 this year — was driven by dubious data. US News & World Report uses self-reported data to rank the universities, and Thaddeus found that many of Columbia’s claims were exaggerated in order to maximize positive factors and climb toward the top of the rankings. US News’ reliance on universities to provide accurate data enables attempts to cheat in the rankings.
This isn’t the first time that the accuracy and prestige of these rankings — despite their importance to many high school students — has been brought into question. Northeastern University has been notorious for gaming the rankings. They introduced programs where students who tend to have lower grades study away for a semester or a year. Because those students aren’t going directly to the university, their statistics are not included in the ranking data.
Read the rest of the story at Washington Square News.