25% of the criteria that gets measured by U.S. News & World Report for their annual rankings is based on school “reputation.” New research reveals that “reputational rankings” are not updated as accurately as prospective students think and may not reveal much about a given school’s actual reputation.
In an Inside Higher Ed article entitled “Circular Ratings,” Scott Jaschik explains:
What the research found is that the reputational scores don’t correlate with changes in factors such as resources or graduation rates, but correlate with the previous year’s rankings. In other words, the way you get a good reputational score—and in turn a good ranking—is to already have a good ranking.
This research supports the criticism that U.S. News has long gotten from frustrated college officials. It allows for a more conclusive doubt to be cast upon the reputational rankings in specific, and the whole ranking system in general: How is it possible that a college can change so much about itself—qualitatively and quantitatively—but have its reputation remain unchanged year-to-year?
Leader of U.S. News college rankings, Robert Morse, admits that the reputational scores remain “relatively stable from one year to another,” but defends this reality by asserting that schools themselves admit to slow changes on a year-to-year basis, so the reputational scores change slowly to match what’s really going on.
So the question remains: If the findings show that reputational rankings are based more on past rankings than on any current measurements, then should they be taken so seriously? Should they really be worth 25% of the total ranking score?
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