By Richard Vedder
I read that Sarah Lawrence College is declaring war against US News & World Report (USNWR). I have somewhat mixed feelings about this, but am more on the side of USNWR than against them. I do not think Sarah Lawrence will win its battle in any case.
Sarah Lawrence is mad because, when it announced it was dropping requiring the SAT exam, it led USNWR to announce that it would have to estimate a student quality of Sarah Lawrence's students, and it would have to be cautious in the evaluation of them, with the implication that the rankings may fall. Sarah Lawrence doesn't like standardized tests, apparently, and doesn't want people ranking it. While clearly they have the right to do what they wish, they are trying to shut down one of the few "bottom lines" in higher ed. They are taking a step against transparency, full information, etc., showing an arrogance and contempt for consumers and donors which is commonplace these days in the academy.
On the other hand, the USNWR rankings are based on dubious criteria and contribute to the rise in college costs. So the one side of me is sort of happy that USNWR is being taken on. But what we need are more rankings, not fewer. We need evaluations based on what students learn in college, on student success rates in getting jobs, on their ability to get through college in a timely manner, etc.
I also worry about this tendency of some schools to abandon the SAT. I think it is a reasonably reliable predictor of student academic success, and not considering it leads to subjective evaluations of students that may lead to less emphasis on academic quality and merit, and more on meeting whatever the fashionable thing of the moment is in terms of the nature of student bodies.