U.S. News & World Report started ranking colleges in 1983 and is now well-known for its many annual lists. It ranks high schools, law schools, business schools, you name it.
But since November, more than two dozen law schools — many of them highly ranked — have announced they would no longer submit data to U.S. News, saying the rankings were profoundly flawed.
This week, Harvard Medical School said it was withdrawing from the med school rankings. The dean wrote in an open letter that, essentially, education is too complicated a product to be ranked numerically. But a lot of applicants still pay attention to that numerical list.
What’s happened in the past two months could change the role rankings play in the process of applying to schools.
“The credibility of U.S. News — certainly their law school rankings — has been badly shaken,” said Colin Diver, who wrote the book “Breaking Ranks.”
He’s also led Reed College in Oregon and the University of Pennsylvania law school. He expects to see more medical schools withdraw from the rankings, maybe undergraduate colleges too.
That would be a big shift because, right now, “the first thing you do is you look at rankings,” Diver said. “It’s going to take a long time to break that culture.”
Part of the challenge is people feel good about paying for a highly ranked college education. Kind of the same as when they buy a highly ranked dishwasher.
“It makes us feel better as a consumer and ‘smarter,’” said Patrick Lorenzo, a counselor at St. Ignatius College Prep, a high school in San Francisco.