Do Students Care About College Rankings?


February 6, 2012
by Alexis Mattera

In the wake of the recent scandal at Claremont McKenna College, one has to wonder if college rankings are all they’re cracked up to be. Colleges seem to think so – some administrators are willing to fudge standardized testing data in order to move up even one slot and bonuses have been offered to the presidents of schools that increase their positions – but what about the students? Do they care about the number associated with their school of choice? Meh.

In the wake of the recent scandal at Claremont McKenna College, one has to wonder if college rankings are all they’re cracked up to be. Colleges seem to think so – some administrators are willing to fudge standardized testing data in order to move up even one slot and bonuses have been offered to the presidents of schools that increase their positions – but what about the students? Do they care about the number associated with their school of choice? Meh.

The trend, discussed in a new Associated Press article, is that students typically use the rankings as a source of data and pay little attention to a school's number. The latest version of the national survey of college freshmen conducted annually by UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute revealed that rankings in national magazines were number 11 on the list of factors affecting college choices behind factors such as cost, size and location; the number one factor, however, was academic reputation, which is a bit confusing as reputation is taken into consideration when determining rankings. "As someone who is asked every year to comment on the rankings, it seems to me that who cares most is the media," John Pryor, who directs the UCLA survey, wrote in a blog post last year. "Second would be college presidents and development officers. Way down the list seem to be those who are actually trying to decide where to go to college."

Are college rankings a bigger deal to students or colleges? Did you or do you plan to use college rankings in making your college choices or do you think other factors are more important to consider?

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