College rankings season is in full swing now, and in case you haven’t noticed, the ranks of rankings is growing. Once upon a time, only a select few rankings organizations existed — led by U.S. News & World Report‘s annual countdown of best colleges. Today, though, it seems there’s a ranking for everything — reputation, value added, return on investment, etc. Media outlets like Forbes, Washington Monthly, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and USAToday have joined the party, while online data-gathering sites like PayScale have fueled the outcomes-based approaches to rankings. Aided by the Internet, new rankings seemingly pop up overnight like fungi on a lawn — and clutter the higher ed marketing pro’s inbox with notifications of your school’s standing and requests for linkbacks to their sometimes shady rankings.
Those who cover higher education have taken notice, even as many of their own media outlets have joined the rankings game. Here is an unranked list of five recent articles discussing college rankings in more depth.
- Who’s No. 1? As college rankings proliferate, it depends. The Washington Post‘s Nick Anderson examines this growth in college rankings and notes that there are “numbered lists for every taste, each with a unique data-crunching formula.” U.S. News’ rankings tend to “reward wealth and prestige — long a matter of debate, with little variation among the top schools from year to year,” Anderson writes, but newcomers to the scene may rewrite the rankings rules as “new ranking schemes seek to define which schools offer the best outcomes for students, the best value, the best student experience. The proliferation of rankings could shake up higher education, influencing not just how consumers view the market but also how colleges position themselves in the competition for students and faculty.”
- How much graduates earn drives more college rankings. The New York Times reports on these newer, outcomes-based rankings and concludes that while “None of the rankings agree on which is the ‘best’ college,” their proliferation is “a good thing. Students and their parents certainly shouldn’t rely on only one source.”
- Musings on the occasion of a new ranking is an essay by Jamienne S. Studley, a college president and former U.S. Department of Education official, who shares his thoughts on one of the latest entrants, The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education college rankings. The WSJ/THE rankings is more outcomes-based than the likes of U.S. News. While the new ranking offers “positive approaches to appreciate,” its “transition to outcomes-based measures is incomplete,” Studley writes.
- Forget college rankings: Look for ‘Nessie’ instead. This Forbes story isn’t talking about some mythical creature in Scotland. “Nessie” refers to NSSE, the National Survey on Student Engagement. “Instead of just showing us how shiny the car is, NSSE shows us what’s under the hood,”writes Forbes contributor William Dix. That’s because NSSE “surveys students at the beginning and end of their careers, it’s possible to get a sense of the college’s value-added proposition over time. It’s an imperfect measure, of course, but far more insightful than measuring ‘alumni contributions.’ NSSE is as close to a college report card as we have right now.”
- Here’s a new college ranking, based entirely on other college rankings. The meta-ranking has arrived.
Image via Flickr.