Opinion | The ups and downs of the U.S. News & World Report rankings – The Washington Post

Sign in
Thanks to Yale’s James Forman Jr., law professor and director of the university’s Center for Law and Racial Justice, for arguing for the demise of the U.S. News & World Report annual rankings of colleges and universities and professional schools [“3 reasons Yale Law was right to quit the U.S. News rankings,” op-ed, Nov. 28]. He gave his top three reasons, although he says he “could offer dozens” more, to which I and many others can and have said, “So can we!”
It’s all about making money, of course, not about honest service to the American people, especially and sadly not about those who struggle over which college or university is best for them.
This “ranking” appeals perfectly to our middle- and upper-class cultures and our apparently desperate need for simplicity, for reducing complexity to single or double digits, for substituting the supposed views of “experts” for our own due diligence and hard work. This has given rise to a multibillion-dollar industry of standardized test coaching programs, publishers, seminars, college admission coaches, even specialized mental health counselors. Academic community leaders have railed against this for four decades, to no avail.
But this continuing misadventure, experienced year after year by our earnest college and professional-school seekers, probably says much more about us than it does about U.S. News & World Report or the other ranking schemes. Americans cherish rankings of all sorts. Do we find comfort in their simplicity and convenience, easier than qualitative and personalized considerations that require honest self-assessment and study?
Tom Ingram, Potomac
At the risk of jeopardizing my pending law school applications, I must take slight issue with James Forman Jr.’s op-ed.
Mr. Forman urged law school applicants to “stop relying on the U.S. News rankings — or any rankings,” recommending that they instead simply “look at data, visit a school’s website, speak to students and alumni and visit” the school to make comparative judgments. In other words, Mr. Forman invited applicants to observe, collect and then make ordinal sense of exactly the same jungle of information the U.S. News rankings are designed to sort through and synthesize. This is no elimination of rankings at all, but rather the substitution of one ranking for another.
U.S. News surely leaves much to be desired, but at least its governing methodology is explicit and publicly available; its rankings, or rankings like them, should be publicly debated and tweaked as much as necessary, not broken apart and implicitly outsourced to resource-limited applicants.
Benjamin G. Friedman, Bethesda


Leave a Comment