Malcom Gladwell Blasts U.S. News & World Reports College Rankings!

Dear Commons Community,

David Brooks in reviewing the best magazine essays of 2011 refers to Malcolm Gladwell’s “devastating takedown of the U.S. News and World Report and other college and university rankings” that was published in The New Yorker in February.  Gladwell panned the U.S. News ranking system of colleges because it uses a uniform set of evaluation critieria to rank all colleges which is problematic given that the colleges are so different (i.e., mission, tuition, size, etc.)   To quote:

“A ranking can be heterogeneous… as long as it doesn’t try to be too comprehensive. And it can be comprehensive as long as it doesn’t try to measure things that are heterogeneous. But it’s an act of real audacity when a ranking system tries to be comprehensive and heterogeneous—which is the first thing to keep in mind in any consideration of U.S. News & World Reports annual “Best Colleges” guide.  He describes the U.S. News ranking operation as:

“The U.S. News rankings are run by Robert Morse, whose six-person team operates out of a small red brick office building in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Morse is a middle-aged man with gray hair who looks like the prototypical Beltway wonk: rumpled, self-effacing, mildly preppy and sensibly shoed. His office is piled high with the statistical detritus of more than two decades of data collection. When he took on his current job, in the mid-nineteen-eighties, the college guide was little more than an item of service journalism tucked away inside U.S. News magazine. Now the weekly print magazine is defunct, but the rankings have taken on a life of their own. In the month that the 2011 rankings came out, the U.S. News Web site recorded more than ten million visitors. U.S. News has added rankings of graduate programs, law schools, business schools, medical schools, and hospitals—and Morse has become the dean of a burgeoning international rankings industry.”

How sad and a pity for the high school seniors [and their parents] who use the deeply flawed U.S. News’ rankings as they prepare for one of the more important decisions in their lives.




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