U.S. News & World Report, The Bob Morse Milestone: 45 Years at U.S. News:
The average American high school student probably doesn't know who Bob Morse is, what he does or the outsize impact he has had on the lives of countless college-bound teenagers. On the flip side, Morse is a familiar figure to college and university leaders across the U.S., known for his work on the U.S. News Best Colleges rankings since 1987.
Morse joined U.S. News & World Report in 1976 as a member of the now-defunct economic unit. Morse, who remembers being the youngest member of his team then, conducted research that helped inform weekly features for the print magazine. In the years since, he experienced the company's shift online and has helmed various rankings franchises for decades.
Morse recently marked his 45th anniversary with U.S. News and spoke about his time at the company and the evolution of the rankings. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
What was your plan as you prepared to enter college? Did you have a major in mind? A career path charted?
"Well, it was a long time ago. It was 1966 when I went to college. And the '60s, that was the psychedelic generation: the Beatles, the Vietnam War, the protests. In terms of my personal journey, I went to the University of Cincinnati. I couldn't get into the regular university, but they had a two-year college – which they don't have now – on the same campus.
"If you went to this two-year program and took the same courses and got certain grades, you were guaranteed to get into the main University of Cincinnati, so that's what I did. I transferred into the undergraduate business major, and that didn't work. Then I moved into the liberal arts and got a bachelor's degree in liberal arts and economics. But when I was in high school, I didn't really have a specific career in mind. ... It was more like just get a degree and see where it would lead." ...
The rankings have drawn criticism over the years. How has U.S. News responded? And how do the rankings continue to evolve in response to those concerns or other unrelated factors?
"We haven't ignored the criticism. As a tactic, or policy, or a way of doing business, we've tried to engage our critics, especially when they're in higher education. We've tried to discuss why they don't like what we're doing and tried to engage them and have discussions with them. We've listened to the public discussions about what people care about in higher education.
"We've tried to incorporate data. When new information has become available, we really keep track of what's being collected. We try to tell people that there's not a perfect ranking and we're not measuring all parts of a school. We try to emphasize that rankings should not be the sole tool to use when choosing a college and should be just one part of the information that a prospective student should use with their family to make a decision."