Posted by: Gregory Linton | 10/30/2018

New study casts doubt on college rankings

A couple of weeks ago, Challenge Success, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, released a study titled “A ‘Fit’ over Rankings: Why College Engagement Matters More than Selectivity.” This study found that the factors that students and parents consider in evaluating potential colleges are not measured by college rankings. The study was based on a survey of more than 100,000 high school students across the country.

The study calls into question the validity of college rankings, such as those published by U.S. News & World Report. The rankings tend to emphasize reputation and selectivity, which do not necessarily equate to better outcomes. Many of the metrics are weighted arbitrarily and do not accurately indicate positive outcomes for students.

The study examined research concerning the connection between selectivity and student learning, future job satisfaction, and well-being and found no significant relationship. It found only a modest relationship between selectivity and financial benefits, primarily for first-generation and underserved students.

The authors encourage students to look beyond the rankings to find a school where the student can be fully engaged in the academic, civic, and social life of the campus. Positive outcomes later in life are connected to how well the student was engaged during college; therefore, students should look for schools that promote internships, provide faculty mentors, and require multi-semester projects.

For a summary of the research, read this article in Inside Higher Ed. Or read this opinion essay about the research.

Here is a list of the most popular college information providers, many of whom provide rankings or scores based on various criteria:


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