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Rankled by Rankings

Inside Higher Ed

Liam Knox
September 22, 2023
U.S. News & World Report released its annual rankings of undergraduate institutions Monday, prompting a familiar flurry of bragging and bemoaning by college leaders.
Inside Higher Ed does not typically cover college rankings, but this year’s list was determined using new methodology and seemed to ruffle more feathers than usual. Highly selective institutions like Princeton and Stanford Universities still occupy the top spots, but thanks to a beefed-up social mobility metric, a number of public institutions climbed significantly from recent years—and a similar number of private universities dropped, sometimes by double digits.
The social mobility metric isn’t a brand-new addition to the list; the rankings powerhouse began considering how institutions improve their graduates’ economic standing as a factor in 2018. But this year it placed a “greater emphasis” on outcomes and mobility, according to a press release from U.S. News, which called it “the most significant methodological change in the rankings’ history.”
U.S. News made the shift partly in response to criticism that it puts a premium on prestige, filling the top of the list year after year with wealthy, private, highly selective institutions. This year, open-access institutions with more low-income and minority students saw the benefits of the new metrics: the City University of New York’s City College and San Diego State University both jumped by 46 places, for instance, and a few—such as Rutgers University at Camden and Texas A&M University—cracked the top 50 for the first time.
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