By Richard Vedder
A couple of days ago, the Wall Street Journal ran an interesting story on the US News & World Report (USNWR) rankings of law schools. It noted that many articles had been written showing deficiencies in the rankings, pointing out how law schools can distort the rankings using various dubious strategies, etc.
The story went on to say that there are a number of innovative criteria (e.g.,the number of students placed in federal judge clerkships) that some have suggested included in alternative rankings. Moreover, it quoted two law school professors who are negotiating with a publisher to actually do an alternative ranking.
The latter idea has long intrigued me. Rankings are a big business, and the college rankings are no doubt a profit center for USNWR in an era where print news media are facing big challenges. A Consumer Guide to American Law Schools that use other criteria might sell respectably well, garnering some income for the publishers. With this in mind, offering college guides for undergraduate education that utilize other criteria than the USNWR ones is probably highly feasible from a commercial point of view. What is needed, however, is greater cooperation from the colleges in getting meaningful outcomes based measures, such as National Survey of Student Engagement or Collegiate Learning Assessment scores. We applaud the efforts of those pushing to make that cooperation happen, including, surprisingly perhaps, officials in the Department of Education.
Speaking of the Department of Education, on September 17, 1981, Ronald Reagan summoned his Energy Department and Education Department secretaries to a meeting, for the purpose of deciding the order in which these two departments would be eliminated. Now, 26 years later, both departments are alive and well, spending vastly more resources than in the Reagan era. Do we have more energy or better education as a result? I doubt it.