NACAC Takes Issue With US News College Rankings

NACAC Takes Issue With US News College Rankings
  • Opening Intro -

    US News & World Report has long published its own college ranking system, a much referenced if not controversial way to rate colleges and universities.


US News’s methodology has been called useless by some and tripe by others. Its metrics have frequently changed making it nearly impossible to compare year-over-year changes. Still, the National Association for College Admission Counselors (NACAC) has carefully reviewed the latest changes and has shared its own comments about the revised US News rankings methodology.

Best College Choices

Specifically, NACAC has taken the position that the US News rankings “cause confusion for students and families.” Stated Joyce Smith, NACAC CEO, “While we appreciate the revisions to the rankings formula, we still believe US News emphasizes the wrong information in attempting to evaluate colleges.” Smith went on to note that US News provides information that does not help students choose their own best college.

That being said, NACAC found that the updated methodology made a good move by reducing the emphasis on student’s high school rank. Instead, US News now places greater weight on student performance and graduation, one of the recommendations that NACAC made in 2011.

However, US News has also increased the importance of standardized tests (SAT and ACT) as part of its ranking formula. In 2009, NACAC urged US News to eliminate such scores from its rankings criteria, as they are not as predictive in calculating student performance at college as some might think.

Personalized Ranking Input

NACAC has also urged US News to democratize its rankings. Specifically, through allowing users to create their own personalized rankings. The counselors believe that students and families would benefit from using US News’ data to “assigning weights to variables they determine to be important to them, to create personalized lists to help determine the best college for their needs.” It is a step NACAC recommended in 2011, but US News has yet to incorporate.

The counselors have also taken issue with reporting by institutions. Notably, NACAC has found that US News’ rankings “put an inordinate amount of pressure on colleges to maintain or better their ‘status’ in a subjective ranking system.” Not all colleges and universities report their data to US News, but those that do should do so accurately and with integrity.

College Ranking Choices

As it has urged students and families to do in the past, NACAC once again has stressed that consumers should learn about the rankings and what they are and are not before using them. The counselors urged students to review the various ranking sources, including US News, to learn more about the colleges and universities that interest them.

Besides US News and other private ranking sources, students can find good and objective information on the US Department of Education’s college navigator site. That site offers a wealth of information about public, private and for-profit institutions. Still, NACAC has stressed that their is no objective measure for quantifying the “best” college. Instead, students should always strive to find the college that is best for them.

See AlsoU.S. News Announces Best College Ratings for 2012


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Categories: Campus News