Thursday, March 12, 2009

College Rankings: A Thoughtful Perspective

By Richard Vedder

Eating lunch with Bob Morse, US News & World Report's guru on college rankings, reminded me that I have not talked much, if at all, about a soon-to-be-released CCAP study by two of our Whiz Kids, Luke Myers and Jonathan Robe. I think it is a fine addition to a growing literature on rankings.

The historical evolution of rankings is interesting. Long before US News revolutionized the rankings business 25 years ago, people were ranking colleges. Many of the early rankings, like many overseas today, were done not to promote consumer knowledge but to help in allocating public resources, allow schools to see how they were doing relative to competitors, etc. The consumer orientation of rankings is relatively new.

The most important contribution in the study from an originality perspective, I suspect, is empirical evidence that shows there are, in fact, a fair amount of differences in general undergraduate rankings. It is shown, for example, that the statistical relationship between rankings and instructional spending is quite different between the US News and the Forbes rankings.

Both Bob and I agreed that more rankings are better than fewer, and that rankings serve a useful function. For that reason CCAP will continue to work with Forbes in compiling college rankings, and I intend to attend an international meeting of rankings experts to be held later this year in central Asia.

No comments: