Paul L. Caron

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Movement Builds To Suspend U.S. News Rankings During COVID-19 Pandemic

Following up on my previous posts:

Chronicle of Higher Education, Why One Former Campus Leader Thinks College Rankings Should Stop During the Pandemic:

The coronavirus has underscored inequities in American society, including among college students. ... Now, in the next phase of the pandemic, new inequities are poised to arise, this time among both who gets into college, and among who completes their degrees. So argues H. Holden Thorp in the latest issue of the journal Science, of which he’s editor in chief. He has two ideas for leveling the playing field: Suspend both the U.S. News & World Report college rankings, and the use of standardized tests in admissions.

Thorp draws from his past experiences as chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, then provost of Washington University in St. Louis.

"The best thing would be for U.S. News to do the right thing and say, 'We’re just not going to do this until this is over.'”

[Reached for comment, Robert Morse, chief data strategist for U.S. News & World Report, sent along the following statement, via a spokeswoman:

"The data in the upcoming 2021 edition of Best Colleges was not impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. For nearly four decades, U.S. News has published Best Colleges each year for the benefit of prospective students and their parents, and we plan to do so again this fall.

The team at U.S. News most definitely understands that these are and will be very challenging times for college students, faculty, and staff because of the significant and unprecedented disruptions caused by Covid-19. We’re currently reviewing our strategies for future U.S. News education rankings where Covid-19 may have had an impact."]

H. Holden Thorp, Science Editorial: Suspend Tests and Rankings:

Although universities that support research, graduate, and postgraduate training have struggled during the pandemic with the shuttering of labs, clinics, and academic programs, these functions seem to be on their way back and probably can restart safely. I worry less about the recovery of this sector of higher education than I do about undergraduate students, of which there are an estimated 20 million in the United States. We know that their success, on multiple fronts, is enhanced by completing college. ...

My biggest worry is that certain students may get lost in the planning debates and that COVID-19 health and economic impacts may further exacerbate inequities in higher education....

For institutional leaders strategizing to reopen, addressing the imbalances in college access, enrollment, and completion of undergraduate education should be a priority. High scores in admissions tests and high ability to pay tuition are already given too much weight by American academic institutions when it comes to undergraduate admissions. This inequitable behavior is further reinforced by the yearly rankings assigned to colleges and universities, most notoriously by U.S. News and World Report (since 1983), which university donors and political stakeholders study more than they should. To any logical scientific observer, the fine distinctions of where schools show up on this list are statistically meaningless—but try telling that to a roomful of alumni or parents. Countless hours of trustee meetings are spent going over the minute details of the formula and setting institutional goals. Achieving these goals usually means doing things that make the college or university less accessible, like admitting more students with high standardized test scores.

A truly transformative move in this moment of crisis would be to suspend testing requirements and college rankings. This is not a time for undergraduate institutions to be using precious resources to chase these numbers. Rather, they need to support struggling students and other members of the academic community so that education can resume this fall in a manner that is fair to all. Some schools are already making test scores optional for the time being, and hopefully that requirement will never return. Ranking colleges and universities changed higher education, mostly for the worse. Now is the time for institutions to suspend those rankings and, when the crisis is over, bring them back in a more progressive form.

For complete TaxProf Blog coverage of the coronavirus, see here.

Coronavirus, Legal Ed Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink


This accomplishes nothing other than shoring up US News' mythical power over Universities.

Prospective students who care about such things will still go by "rankings" of the past or some other online conventional wisdom.

If you want to be fiscally responsible during the pandemic, bully for you. Rallying against the power of a declining and endangered magazine is childish.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 28, 2020 9:39:42 AM