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U.S. News College Rankings Debated

U.S. News and World Report released its rankings of the country's colleges and universities. The editor of U.S. News and an education advocate who opposes the magazine's collegiate rankings debate their usefulness.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    The only thing more competitive than getting into college is the ranking system many schools rely on to market themselves. One major guide, published annually by U.S. News and World Report, hits newsstands today, bringing a fresh wave of controversy along with it.

    This year, more than 60 college presidents from mostly liberal arts institutions have declared the rankings "misleading" and decided not to participate in judging each other by reputation.

    The rankings, which gauge everything from alumni giving to acceptance rates, are largely based on information supplied by the colleges themselves. In the section of the survey where presidents are asked to rate each others' reputation, participation this year dropped from 58 percent to 51 percent. More than 1,400 campuses are surveyed.

    Some critics say U.S. News' criteria does not tell prospective applicants about what sort of education they are likely to get. Educator Kay McClenney in an interview last year.

    KAY MCCLENNEY, University of Texas at Austin: When you look at the fine print about how they define what best is, what the criteria are for quality, one of them has to do with the acceptance ratio. And it's basically, out of all the students that apply, how few do they allow into the college. And I say to myself, when in America did we come to the point of saying that the mark of quality is the proportion of prospective students that you refuse to serve?

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Still, some universities have made changes in order to rise in the U.S. News rankings. Western Kentucky University is one of them. Gary Ransdell is the president.

  • GARY RANSDELL, President, Western Kentucky University:

    Invest in academic quality. Lower that faculty-student ratio. We've hired more faculty and brought it back down. We invest in classroom improvements. We recruit better students. We're trying to recruit more highly credentialed faculty.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    In this year's U.S. News guide, Princeton held the top spot for the eighth straight year. Harvard was ranked number two, Yale three.

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