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Old 09-09-2019, 12:36 PM
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How prestigious is the US News college rankings?


I didnít even know that US News and World report still existed. But, Iím seeing a lot of chatter on social media about their college rankings which came out today. My own university, FSU, came in 18th for public schools and 57th overall in national universities.

https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings

Back in the day, I do remember a print edition of the best colleges and it probably was US News and World Report.

From spending some time reading though their site, it does appear to use a methodology and isn't just clickbait.
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Old 09-09-2019, 12:42 PM
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I've heard it's a really big deal among colleges. So much so that colleges now work on gaming the system to push their ratings up.

There are over five thousand colleges in the United States. The ones in the middle of the pack need to do something to stand out.
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Old 09-09-2019, 12:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
I've heard it's a really big deal among colleges. So much so that colleges now work on gaming the system to push their ratings up.

There are over five thousand colleges in the United States. The ones in the middle of the pack need to do something to stand out.
I can absolutely say that Florida State University is all over social media today about the rankings. And not just the official FSU feed, but the alumni groups and the individual colleges that make up FSU.
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Old 09-09-2019, 03:43 PM
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Many schools (including higher ranked colleges) feel that these rankings mismeasure and misrepresent schools' attributes, and don't actively participate anymore.
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Old 09-09-2019, 03:44 PM
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So not only do our universities need prestige, but the organizations ranking the prestige of our universities need prestige?

Where will it end with you guys?!
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Old 09-09-2019, 03:45 PM
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It's prestige all the way down.
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Old 09-09-2019, 04:01 PM
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My answer is a firm "it depends".

I know it is one of the best known, but it really only ranks U.S. Universities amongst themselves. I think this is fine for someone in the U.S. trying to sort through options on where to attend. However, I would be careful using this ranking for other purposes.

A few years ago, I was asked to look into which universities in some specific countries (including both first world and developing nations) my company should consider becoming involved with (i.e. looking for opportunities for funding and collaboration) if we were going to start to do business in those countries. That's when I discovered there are a lot of sources for such rankings (Wikipedia page).

I settled on the Times Higher Education and QS rankings as the most detailed (I was interested in getting results for specific scientific and engineering disciplines) and least biased. I would still recommend these for non-students who want to assess where the best minds in the world are.

When I performed my study, U.S. News and World Report global rankings were not yet a thing, so I didn't consider these at that time.
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Old 09-09-2019, 04:20 PM
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What's the quote? A celebrity is a person who is known for his well-knownness.

USN&WR is like that. Well known for being well known. And like with celebrities, just as respected. Not.

Just checked some and the "regional" college rankings are full of WtF stuff. People are definitely gaming the system here.

One place I was a prof at had unusually high rankings. Us faculty as well as the students were baffled. (As were the companies that recruited our students. The students were considered 2nd tier.) It is nowhere near that good. It is night and day vs. the comparable places in the rankings.

The administrators loved these rankings, if they were good really good. Otherwise they ignored them.

From a prospective student's point of view, what really matters is the ranking of the departments you are considering majoring in by the societies for those areas.

Last edited by ftg; 09-09-2019 at 04:20 PM.
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Old 09-09-2019, 04:24 PM
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I’m not sure if prestigious is the right word. Universities tend to be highly competitive and take these rankings seriously. They certainly try to game rankings by changing resources to whatever is being weighed. This makes the rankings less useful, but most people looking at them don’t know this. If they influence people making a decision, then the universities care about them. But that doesn’t make them all that accurate since weights are arbitrary.

For example, one ranking measured number of research faculty, but counted anyone working more than 20% full time as one position. Suddenly, some universities hired lots of part time researches working a 20% full time equivalent instead of fewer full time positions. It looked a lot better, ranked higher, and meant little.

Many universities, especially with electronic applications, encourage people who stand essentially no chance of getting in to apply. By rejecting more applicants, this makes the university seem more competitive and popular. But ten years ago, they wouldn’t have bothered inviting people with lower marks to apply.

So, many rankings should be taken with plenty of salt. Some are probably better than others. I don’t know what US News specifically measures. This doesn’t mean rankings are completely useless or wrong, but there are arbitrary components and many other factors should affect decisions.
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Last edited by Dr_Paprika; 09-09-2019 at 04:25 PM.
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Old 09-09-2019, 04:32 PM
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Woo Hoo, we're number 1!!! in the Public school listings (#20 nationally). It's a good school, and it was good when I was there. It just seems weird, because I kind of fell into going there. Fortunately, it didn't cost $13K (in-state) tuition when I went.

UCLA, btw.
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Old 09-09-2019, 06:23 PM
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Personally, I heap blame on US News & World Report for being one of the first and most influential causes of the insanity that now infests the college application process. I may be incorrect in singling out that publication; it is not something I've studied. But my recollection is that the rankings were kind of a novelty when I applied to college (in 1975) and were immediately of great interest. I remember my mother grabbing that edition each year while I was a college student (she didn't buy it otherwise) and checking to be sure that my alma mater was still highly rated, making her feel validated and giving her bragging rights.

Over the next three-plus decades, I observed with increasing trepidation how what had once been a fairly straightforward process of applying to college was becoming a nightmare, worsening every year in terms of stress, competition, waste of resources, and general craziness, culminating in the Felicity Huffman et al college admissions scandal we've just witnessed. By the time I had a kid ready for the college application process, it was absurd (a search of my SDMB posts during that time would demonstrate that I too was swept up in the belief that my kid just HAD to get accepted to a top-tier school or my/his life would be in ruins).

Anyway, it wasn't only because of USN&WR that things got out of hand; many societal factors, including the blossoming of the internet, have played a role. But as far as I can tell, they were one of the initial causes. Had the bright idea of ranking all the schools been quashed when first suggested, we might be in better shape today.

No chance the idea, once floated, wouldn't take root, though. It's not about helping families sort the college application process; it's all about the money. I don't read USN&WR but my understanding is that they have branched out and now they do stupid rankings all the damn time. No doubt that is what keeps them afloat, financially.


.
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Last edited by CairoCarol; 09-09-2019 at 06:25 PM.
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Old 09-09-2019, 07:08 PM
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For the very top schools, it's probably a better indicator of status to compare number of Nobel Laureates that went there or are/were on faculty. Let's see, where is Bob Dylan an alum of, and what faculty appointments has he held?
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Old 09-10-2019, 04:39 AM
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My mother took that list as the end-all be-all of college credentials, and wouldn't hear of her Darling Daughter (that's me!) coming anywhere near some godforsaken garbage heap near the middle of the list.

Plenty of credulous folks to keep that particular ball rollin' along.
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Old 09-10-2019, 06:54 AM
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Similar is the Aspen Prize for community colleges. Schools take great pride in being #1.

According to their site:Institutions are assessed for exceptional student outcomes in four areas: student learning, certificate and degree completion (including of a bachelorís degree after transfer), employment and earnings, and high levels of access and success for minority and low-income students.


One school Lake Area Tech advertises it's #1 ranking and its mostly why President Obama choose to visit the tiny school in 2015 to give the commencement address.

To me, its just another criteria in making a selection. Often the biggest one is just if the school is close enough to home so ones expenses are cheaper.
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Old 09-10-2019, 08:19 AM
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I've studied and worked at a lot of colleges. They are mostly similar for most students no matter where they're ranked (as long as they're regionally accredited).
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Old 09-10-2019, 08:33 AM
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OTOH, medical school rankings are accurate and trustworthy. Just look at this about the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine:
Quote:
The school was ranked 5th in the world and 1st in Canada by the Academic Ranking of World Universities in 2019 and the U.S. News and World Education Rankings for Clinical Medicine in 2018, and 11th in the world and 1st in Canada by the QS University Subject Rankings for Medicine in 2018.


P.S. The linked wiki page for my dear Faculty is otherwise embarrassing. Go here if you're interested which I am sure you're not.
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Old 09-10-2019, 08:50 AM
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Quote:
Quoth ftg:

From a prospective student's point of view, what really matters is the ranking of the departments you are considering majoring in by the societies for those areas.
Or even the subgroups within the departments, or even individual professors. Some fields of study are narrow enough that there are only a small number of options where you can pursue them.
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Old 09-10-2019, 09:24 AM
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Well just how "bad" can a school get? I mean if students graduate and then find out nobody will hire them, well word gets around fast. What companies come and recruit there?


For example in auto mechanics I simply emailed various shops in the area to ask where they hired from. Yes some were more recommended than others.
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Old 09-10-2019, 02:01 PM
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Sure if you view universities as simply career placement services.
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Old 09-10-2019, 03:01 PM
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Student parking?

It's an issue that wont be on any major ranking but it can be a big issue.

I remember UMKC years ago. UMKC had about 90% of their students having to drive and park to attend. Only there were not near enough parking spaces so you got to the parking lot and waited in a line for someone to leave so you could park. Often this would be quite a battle and make you late for class. The parking spots were on meters but often the meters were broken and if you parked in one you'd get a ticket.

It really was annoying and something the students were constantly complaining about yet the administration didnt want to do anything about it.

KU Medical Center, similar. People had to park all over the neighborhood so that caused friction with them and they would post signs restricting non resident parking but still if you were a student, what could you do?

Eventually both schools listened and added more parking.
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Old 09-10-2019, 03:02 PM
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Most of the schools near the top are interchangeable. However, as someone who went to a small liberal arts college that nobody has ever heard of, I still check every year that we remain the #1 college in the hopes that someday I'll mention where I went and not have somebody ask "Is that a girls' school?" (not that there is anything wrong with girls' schools although there are fewer and fewer remaining). Also it doesn't hurt that our arch rival since 1821 is consistently ranked #2 which gives us bragging rights, and lets the cheerleaders continue to chant "US NEWS! US NEWS!" whenever we play them.
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Old 09-10-2019, 03:34 PM
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The USNWR law school rankings are pretty much the gold standard, but lots of commentators (notably Above the Law) point out that the rankings are useless and a lot of the non-T14 schools try and game them.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Urbanredneck View Post
Student parking?
It won't be on any major ranking because nobody fucking cares. Sure, students care when they're attending, but nobody picks a school because it has ample parking.
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Old 09-10-2019, 04:08 PM
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Most of the schools near the top are interchangeable. However, as someone who went to a small liberal arts college that nobody has ever heard of, I still check every year that we remain the #1 college in the hopes that someday I'll mention where I went and not have somebody ask "Is that a girls' school?" (not that there is anything wrong with girls' schools although there are fewer and fewer remaining). Also it doesn't hurt that our arch rival since 1821 is consistently ranked #2 which gives us bragging rights, and lets the cheerleaders continue to chant "US NEWS! US NEWS!" whenever we play them.
Well, at least they're not chanting "Anassa kata, kalo kale."
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Old 09-10-2019, 05:02 PM
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Well just how "bad" can a school get? I mean if students graduate and then find out nobody will hire them, well word gets around fast. What companies come and recruit there?
There are plenty of schools that have awful reputations and yet they still manage to ensnare unsuspecting students. Because word of mouth doesn't travel everywhere. Word of mouth doesn't stand a chance against glossy advertising. And word of mouth can easily be ignored. Like, maybe your cousin warns you about a school based on her negative experiences there, but you decide to take your cousin's account with a grain of salt because she's a snob while you aren't.

A lot of students are still being taught that it doesn't matter where or what they study as long as they earn a degree. As long as enough people believe this, you will find people enrolling at bad schools.
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Old 09-11-2019, 12:17 PM
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There are plenty of schools that have awful reputations and yet they still manage to ensnare unsuspecting students.
I've talked to a lot of people who went to crappy schools. Esp. private ones when a mile away is a much better state school with lower tuition, or worse, for-profit ones.

A lot of less-than-logical answers. People all too often make key life decisions based on the oddest factors. E.g., the kid of friends of ours went to the state school farthest from from home while still being in-state for money reasons. Bypassing a bunch of better places not as far away. And that's far from the worst example.
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Old 09-11-2019, 12:42 PM
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The USNWR law school rankings are pretty much the gold standard, but lots of commentators (notably Above the Law) point out that the rankings are useless and a lot of the non-T14 schools try and game them.

It won't be on any major ranking because nobody fucking cares. Sure, students care when they're attending, but nobody picks a school because it has ample parking.
It's all very recursive for law schools. You rank higher if you have a higher reputation. You also rank higher if you get more applicants. And, of course, you have a higher reputation and get more applicants if you rank higher. Round and round.

Meanwhile, because law school hiring is so insanely competitive, everyone gets taught by professors from the same five law schools.
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Old 09-12-2019, 07:43 PM
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Well just how "bad" can a school get? I mean if students graduate and then find out nobody will hire them, well word gets around fast. What companies come and recruit there?


For example in auto mechanics I simply emailed various shops in the area to ask where they hired from. Yes some were more recommended than others.
I suppose it's the difference between working for a local auto mechanic and working for Tesla.
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Old 09-14-2019, 09:46 AM
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I've worked for four different universities. They take the rankings very seriously, and do their best to game the system. The thought is that prospective students use them to decide where to apply. I don't know if that is true or not, but it is definitely the perception among university administrators.
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Old 09-14-2019, 09:58 AM
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Tim, agreed. This includes, in some cases, firing different classes of employees in order to adjust the ratios of, say, research to teaching faculty, then using grad students to teach classes that are really out of their expertise.

Last edited by susan; 09-14-2019 at 09:59 AM.
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