In previous columns I have reported how a number of external factors, such as funding, demographics, politics and the like have been hurting higher education. In many other cases – overblown athletic programs, misguided marketing, and plain bad leadership – the injuries have been self-inflicted. To these cases we can now add the race for the rankings.
I have argued in this column in the past that rankings like the ones by U.S. News & World Reportand its copycats make little sense. To begin with, many of the things they claim to measure, such as athletics, facilities, and “reputation,” have nothing to do with the quality of the education students receive. Besides, improvement in all those areas costs money, money that could be used to actually improve the quality of the education for the students or the productivity of the faculty. In the last few months, a new case emerged that demonstrates how these rankings are built on very shaky ground, and furthers the reasons why we should ignore them.