Friday Five: We don’t need no stinking U.S. News badges

Continuing on the U.S. News & World Report college rankings theme:

stinking-badgesYou may have heard some of the uproar among higher ed types caused by U.S. News‘ decision to sell universities the right to post the magazine’s rankings “seal of approval” badge on institutions’ websites.

As The Chronicle of Higher Education points out, U.S. News has been selling campuses the right to use the badge in print materials for years — so charging a fee for this seal of approval is nothing new. The magazine is just extending its product line into the virtual sphere. But at a pretty hefty price tag: $8,200 for unlimited use. “That’s chutzpah,” Flacklife‘s Bob LeDrew said in his comment on a somewhat-related post on this blog.

Here’s what some other higher ed folks have to say about the badge flap — and an appeal to hear something from the other side:

  1. Mike Richwalsky, on his blog HighEdWebTech, was talking about this issue even before the rankings were made public. “We’ll be referencing the rankings starting tomorrow once the embargo is lifted,” Mike wrote. “One thing we won’t have is the logo. I don’t know if having that along with our news release is worth $700-800 and way up from there for print rights. Will some schools pony up for the logo? I think so. But I would guess many won’t – seeing how bad budgets are right now.”
  2. In that post, Mike shared a tweet from Karine Joly, which gave me a chuckle: “How about an alternate badge that would say: I’m ranked as a top tier college but prefer to spend 1K on scholarship instead of badge fee?” Not a bad idea.
  3. Another idea, from a poster on CASE’s Communications-L listserv, which was abuzz with discussions about the badge: “I’ll be happy to pay to use their badge, as long as they pay for the cost of advertising their magazine on our website and in our alumni magazine, and they’re welcome to pay for the portion of any ad we run which features their badge ad.”
  4. Another listserve member summarized the feelings of many: “We consider it disturbing that the rankings are being linked to attempts to make exorbitant fees on licensing, and it further negates the hotly-contested validity of such rankings in the public’s eye when they are linked to profiting from the schools who are ranked – which seems to be a pretty short-sighted move on the part of these publications. Both Forbes and U.S.News already benefit greatly from the visibility of the rankings, and from each time their badge is promoted in conjunction with them by a college. In a time of economic crisis for education as a whole, schools cannot and should not allocate resources in such a manner and I find the attempt to sell us this to be offensive.”
  5. Enough with the complaints. What’s the upside of this controversy for institutions? Any of you readers purchasing the badge to display on your websites? Let us know why, and the benefits you hope to gain from it.

Have a great weekend.

Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

4 thoughts on “Friday Five: We don’t need no stinking U.S. News badges”

  1. Did you notice how Vanderbilt got around this? Instead of the college rankings badge, they are just using the US News & World Report main logo on their homepage. Good for them not feeling the need to purchase the worthless rankings badge.

  2. Just checked it out, Nicole. Thanks for the heads-up. The image is of the U.S. News nameplate incorporated on Vandy’s main website slideshow.

  3. At this point, the University of Northern Iowa is not planning to pay for the badge. While we have a good ranking among midwest publics, it’s not that important of a part of our marketing. We can discuss it in text, we would have only used the logo on the home page for a short period of time, so it’s not worth the money.

  4. I suggested that our university simply use an image of the cover of the magazine, and to heck with paying for a little badge graphic. (Unfortunately, they went ahead and bought the Web “license”.)

    I think the strongest point here, among strong points, is the obvious problem that those who pay will get better ratings, to perpetuate the profit.

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