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A look at the man behind the college rankings

The release of U.S. News and World Report’s 2014 college rankings Tuesday unleashed the usual obsessing.

The Chronicle of Higher Education cleanly summarizes some of the methodological changes in this year’s rankings, which included decreasing the weight of student selectivity and increasing the weight of graduation and retention rates to “emphasize outcomes,” said Robert J. Morse, U.S. News’ director of data research.

To mark the release of the rankings, the New Yorker tweeted Malcom Gladwell’s 2011 essay, “The Order of Things”, which captures Morse and the rankings’ influence with plenty of Gladwellian color. Here’s an excerpt.

“The U.S. News rankings are run by Robert Morse, whose six-person team operates out of a small red brick office building in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Morse is a middle-aged man with gray hair who looks like the prototypical Beltway wonk: rumpled, self-effacing, mildly preppy and sensibly shoed. His office is piled high with the statistical detritus of more than two decades of data collection. When he took on his current job, in the mid-nineteen-eighties, the college guide was little more than an item of service journalism tucked away inside U.S. News magazine. Now the weekly print magazine is defunct, but the rankings have taken on a life of their own.”

H/T Simone Pathe

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