College Rankings (page 3)

By — Educational Resource Information Center (U.S. Department of Education)
Updated on Dec 16, 2008

College and University Responses to Rankings

College and university officials have responded to the unfavorable or undesirable rankings placement of their institutions in a variety of ways. Some ignore the rankings, others refuse to participate in the surveys, and many respond by altering or misrepresenting institutional data presented to rankings publications (See Stecklow, 1995; Machung, 1998; Monks and Ehrenberg, 1999). By examining the inconsistencies between the information colleges presented to guidebooks and the information they submitted to debt-rating agencies in accordance with federal securities laws, Stecklow (1995) has documented how numerous colleges and universities have manipulated SAT scores and graduation rates in order to achieve a higher score in the rankings publications (p. A1). He noted that many colleges have inflated the SAT scores of entering freshman by deleting the scores from one or more of the following groups: international students, remedial students, the lowest-scoring group, or and learning disabled students. Although many college officials admit that this practice raises ethical concerns, they continue these manipulations because there are no legal obstacles preventing such action. Stecklow asserts says that many surveyors such as Money magazine, Barron's, and U.S. News do not always check the validity of the data submitted to them by colleges (1995, p. A1).

Balanced Approach

Since many published rankings have been perceived as biased, uninformative, or flawed, a number of higher education practitioners encourage parents and prospective students to do their own research on colleges, to view alternative college prep publications, and to view the rankings publications with a critical eye.


Ehrenberg, R.G. (2000). Tuition rising: Why college costs so much. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Hossler, D. (2000). The problem with college rankings. About Campus, 5 (1), 20-24. EJ 619 320

Hunter, B. (1995). College guidebooks: Background and development. New Directions for Institutional Research, 88. EJ 518 243

Machung, A. (1998). Playing the rankings game. Change, 30 (4), 12-16. EJ 568 897

McDonough, P.M., Antonio, A.L., Walpole, M., & Perez, L.X. (1998). College rankings: Democratized college knowledge for whom? Research in Higher Education, 39 (5), 513-537. EJ 573 825

McGuire, M.D. (1995). Validity issues for reputational studies. New Directions for Institutional Research, 88. EJ 518 247

Monks, J., & Ehrenberg R.G. (1999). U.S. News & World Report's college rankings: Why they do matter. Change, 31 (6), 43-51.

Rankings caution and controversy. Retrieved April 29, 2002, from the Education and Social Science Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:

Stecklow, S. (1995, April 5). Cheat sheets: Colleges inflate SATs and graduation rates in popular guidebooks - Schools say they must fib to U.S. News and others to compete effectively - Moody's requires the truth. The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1.

Stuart, D. (1995). Reputational rankings: Background and development. New Directions for Institutional Research, 88. EJ 518 244

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