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US News and World Report Rankings vs. NACAC

US News and World Report’s widely disseminated ranking of American colleges came under assault in a recently released report by the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC). The report’s critiques of US News and World Report’s ranking formula and the rebuttal follow.

1. Should Standardized Test Scores Be Included in Rankings?
The NACAC report called for the removal of standardized test scores of admitted students from the US News ranking formula, asserting that they are not a complete measure of student quality and that their use discounts other aspects of admissions. US News, which assigns 7.5 percent of its overall rankings to test scores, dismissed this critique with the observation that they would only do so if the schools themselves discounted this measure in the admissions process. A recent survey revealed that 71.7 percent of all four year institutions will continue to require standardized tests for undergraduate applicants.

2. Are Peer Assessments by College Presidents a Valid Appraisal of Institutional Quality?
The NACAC called for reducing the weight of the US News peer assessment index, which counts for 22.5 percent of an institution’s overall score, on the grounds that it is highly subjective and is disproportionately influenced by social factors marginal to institutional quality. In short, college presidents do not understand the undergraduate experience at other institutions and sometimes downgrade other institutions to enhance their own. US News responded that there is no research based evidence that this is the case.

3. Are College Rankings Themselves helpful?
The NACAC report challenged the national rankings themselves arguing that the ranking criteria and the weights assigned to them by US News are arbitrary. Instead, overall rankings should be replaced by rankings customized to the criteria of individual families and students. US News contends that national ratings provide an essential tool for families interested in the relative merits of schools.

US News college rankings also assign importance to student retention rates, faculty resources, and alumni giving rates, among other factors. While the rankings will continue to generate heat from critics, there is little indication that they will be disappearing in the foreseeable future. Nor will the global competition for seats in America’s best colleges be diminishing anytime soon.

David Dickson is a counselor with Top Test Prep. Contact Top Test Prep today @ (800) 501-Prep or fill out our quick contact form.

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