Stanford Study Says Rankings Don’t Matter

Inside Higher Ed: “A new study from researchers at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education examines all of the evidence about rankings and comes to this conclusion: the best way to find a college that is a ‘good fit’ is to ignore the rankings. Notably, the finding isn’t based on abstract ideas about the value of education not being something that can be measured. Rather, the analysis is based on research about factors many students (and parents) say they take into consideration when they evaluate potential colleges: student learning, well-being, job satisfaction and future income. If you care about those factors, the rankings will not steer you well, the paper says.”

“Key factors in U.S. News and other rankings reward graduation rates and reputation. U.S. News has, over the years, placed more emphasis not just on raw graduation rates but ‘expected’ graduation rates to reward institutions with higher than expected rates for students from at-risk populations. But the Stanford study finds that graduation rates still reflect the student body being served more than the quality of the institution. And the study says there is no evidence linking reputation to anything but … reputation. So reputation is ‘a self-fulfilling metric’.”

“The report adds that ‘rather than choosing a school based primarily on a flawed scoring system, students should ask whether they will be engaged at the college in ways that will allow them to form strong relationships with professors and mentors, apply their learning via internships and long-term projects, and find a sense of community’.”