The 2007 US News & World Report Rankings are out, and Penn has fallen from #4 to #7 in rankings. US News ranks colleges on the following criteria: Peer assessment score, freshman retention rate, performance vs. expected graduation rate, % full-time faculty on payroll, student SAT scores, admit rate, alumni giving rank, student-faculty ratio, and freshmen in the top 10% of high-school class. In essence, the criteria for ranking colleges are how succes-driven the students are, how many students apply, and how good those students are. Unfortunately, these rankings are popular for the same reason that colleges use SAT scores – they provide a criteria for comparing two things, no matter how skewed, and the people/colleges that score highly are too proud and happy that they don’t want to criticize it.
All of these criteria are only secondary ways to measure how good of an education School X is offering. The criteria for evaluating schools must be the education the school is able to impart to the student, not a measure of the students, because some schools attract more gifted students than others. Better, more direct criteria would include student evaluations of teacher quality, student evaluations of their academic experience, peer college evaluations of teacher quality, (for engineering schools) ability to do research, average class size or % classes above 50 (the one criteria I would keep from the above), the success of students at getting into graduate level programs, number of Fulbright/Rhodes scholars produced compared to schools with similar admit rates, and perhaps the average starting salary of graduates, divided by field. I would also under no circumstances rank engineering schools alongside liberal arts schools, because there’s no way you can quantify that going to MIT gives you a ‘better’ education than going to Amherst – those schools that will instruct you in entirely different fields.
In my opinion, Penn falling is great news. I think that anyone who chooses colleges based on a ranking system as skewed as this one has not done an adequate amount of homework about the colleges they apply to. I wish Penn would choose, like Reed College, to stop sending information to US News & World Report, and liberate themselves from the frivolous pressure of a faulty ranking system. Ben Franklin wouldn’t have stood for it, and neither do I.