Credit: FERMIN LEAL/EDSOURCE TODAY
UCLA's Royce Hall in Los Angeles.

Are recent moves by medical and law schools in the United States to actively drop out of rankings reports by outlets such as U.S. News & World Report’s annual “Best Colleges” publications a sign of more withdrawals to come? Even top-ranked Princeton University’s president, Christopher Eisgruber, wrote in The Washington Post, “Rankings are a misleading way to assess colleges and universities. There are lots of great places to get an education.”

Additionally, the New York Times reported, “College presidents have decried the U.S. News rankings as meaningless. Policymakers accused them of skewing educational priorities. And high school guidance counselors call them unreliable.”

While other methods of evaluating colleges and universities are available — the U.S. government in 2015 began publishing online the College Scorecard that offers some data on both public and private schools — there remains a heavy reliance on rankings such as U.S. News & World Report, which includes considerable self-reported and opinion-based information.

With all of this in mind, members of the California Student Journalism Corps in April asked fellow students their thoughts on supporting a move by more schools to withdraw from rankings reports.

Specifically, students were asked, “Many colleges and universities are deciding not to participate in school rankings reports. Do you support this idea? Why or why not?”

Below are their responses.

Imren More

Second-year majoring in computer science at California State University, Sacramento

“I would say that ranking schools in such a manner has a negative impact on the quality of education,” More said.

More said that when she was applying to schools after graduating from high school, she saw that California State University, Sacramento was ranked lower than other universities she was applying to, which worried her when deciding where she wanted to study.

“At first thought, it discouraged me because as a society, we [look at] the rank of the school before the name, partly for the academic validation of simply getting into a higher ranked school,” More said.

“But at the end of the day, education is education, and it’s not about the institution as a whole as much as it is about the professors and the community as a whole. … Once here, I grew to love and appreciate Sac State.”

By Emmely Ramirez

Kenia Marisol Núñez

Fourth-year majoring in liberal studies at California State University, Sacramento

“I think that if there are no longer school rankings it is OK because they are [based on] how the students perform academically, and not on how the students are doing overall,” Núñez said.

Núñez said she felt that rankings are not reliable enough because of their focus on grade point averages and test scores. She believes schools should be ranked on so much more than that, including how they help their students financially.

“They should focus on how the students are succeeding academically and socially,” adding, “The students should be the ones to say why that school deserves to be number one.

By Emmely Ramirez

Grace Griffin

First-year business administration major at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

“I do support the idea because I think the world of academia has turned into more of a competition,” Griffin said. “And I think [opting out of rankings] would center the goal back towards learning.”

For the colleges that choose to remain loyal to the ranking system, Griffin, who said she chose Cal Poly “more for its environment,” still suggests schools do what they can to ensure that this competitive culture does not become too overpowering on a campus.

By Emma Robertson

Jonathan P. Swift

Fourth-year criminal justice major at Sonoma State University

“I do support this idea because it really doesn’t matter what college you go to,” Swift said. “A lot of the time the bigger schools just use it as a marketing tool to bring in more students.”

He also believes the system perpetuates itself. “When you are a top student you are expected to go to these bigger colleges to keep up their image and maintain their ranking.”

By Javier Hernandez

Juan Mendoza

Fourth-year business major at Sonoma State University

“I think that it’s good that schools are deciding to not participate because I don’t believe it really matters,” Mendoza said. “I think ultimately what really matters is that you get the degree.”

He added that a school’s rank was not at the top of his mind when deciding where to attend. “When I got accepted into universities, I just looked into who supported me more through stuff like financial aid rather than rankings.”

By Javier Hernandez

Eva Flores Hernandez

Fifth-year sociology major at San Francisco State University

“I do support this idea because I think school rankings can contribute to poor mental health and self-esteem,” Flores Hernandez said. “I think ranking schools has a big effect on one’s overall well-being,” she added, saying that “if the colleges that I got accepted to were ranked ‘low’ I would feel that I am not good enough because I only got into the ‘bad’ colleges.”

Flores Hernadez also believes that “Eliminating school ranking gives students an equal chance of getting into all schools regardless of their rankings.”

By Marie’Sa Rumsey

Sydni Taylor

Third-year journalism major, San Francisco State University

“I find it important for schools [to participate] in rankings,” Taylor said. She believes it’s a primary way for students to have necessary data when deciding on where to attend.

“It provides information about each campus to their potential and current students about how they are ranked in certain areas about their campus.”

By Marie’Sa Rumsey

Emma Kester

Second-year computer science major at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

“I support this idea because ranking reports have created a very cutthroat environment for impressionable high-schoolers who basically [believe] the only schools worth attending are Ivy [League] institutions,” Kester said.

“If they can’t get into these 5%-acceptance rate schools, then they are ‘failures’ when there’s so many other wonderful schools out there,” she added.

By Abbie Phillips

Nicholas Manaquil

Fourth-year business administration major at California State University, Northridge

“I think it’s a good idea for some schools [to withdraw] because obviously not everyone can be the best,” Manaquil said. He believes that while many campuses benefit from rankings systems, students would not want to be associated with campuses with low evaluations.

Thus, he asked, “why would a school opt in [if they] have that ranking?”

By Randy Flores

Jeremiah Pino

Fourth-year computer science major at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

“There’s a good deal [of reasons] to have some sort of ranking system in place,” Pino said, adding that rankings systems help expose and inform potential students about the “good and bad things that the college provides.”

He said, for instance, out-of-state students can acquire insights on specific statistics that matter to them. “[Rankings can answer questions like] what different nationalities go here, what are the best programs offered here,” Pino said. “It’s good to have some type of reference [point].”

By Naomi Vanderlip

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  1. Charles Howard 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    Anyone who thinks school rankings are unimportant will learn better later. The ones that matter most are private ones by employers.

    Employers are universities, corporations, and people.They will want to know where you got your education. It matters earliest in your career and impresses most later.

    Go to the best place you can.

  2. Jim 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    The problem of getting rid of rankings entirely is that people in the field, i.e. higher socioeconomic people, already know the colleges and they respective merits. It is people who are aspiring to college and professional careers that don't know this are are likely to be victimized by colleges offering expensive programs with low reputations. MBAs are perhaps the most dramatic example. Top tier MBAs are gold while MBAs from low tier schools are useless … Read More

    The problem of getting rid of rankings entirely is that people in the field, i.e. higher socioeconomic people, already know the colleges and they respective merits. It is people who are aspiring to college and professional careers that don’t know this are are likely to be victimized by colleges offering expensive programs with low reputations.

    MBAs are perhaps the most dramatic example. Top tier MBAs are gold while MBAs from low tier schools are useless and carry no value. In many cases the more useless ones are more expensive than the good ones. Without rankings prospective students can spend money and time on a program that has little value. You can get a great education and not get a degree at all so the value of the degree is in the perception of other people.