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Debate: Top Critic vs. 'U.S. News' Editor

June 25, 2007

Why are so many college presidents up in arms about U.S. News & World Report's rankings these days? Brian Kelly, the top editor at the magazine, says the reason is Lloyd Thacker, who through the Education Conservancy, which he founded, has been leading the charge against what he calls "ranksteering."

The movement against U.S. News grew last week with the meeting of the Annapolis Group, where many members pledged to stop participating in a key part of the U.S. News rankings -- a survey of college presidents. While the Annapolis group didn't identify those pledging to move away from the magazine, among those who went public immediately after the Annapolis meeting were Alma College, DePauw University and Eckerd College.

On Friday, Kelly and Thacker did a joint podcast interview to discuss the rankings. Thacker argued that the rankings have hurt American higher education, encouraging colleges to focus on competition, not education. Kelly argued that colleges inflate the power of U.S. News, and he criticized colleges for not being more forthcoming with data about themselves.

But Kelly also acknowledged that the methodology U.S. News uses reflects choices and values. He said that the magazine is open to ideas about changing the methodology and said that the magazine is seriously considering a change that would add some measure of the percentage of Pell Grant-eligible students enrolled (a figure that is frequently used elsewhere as a proxy for how welcoming an institution is to low-income students).

 

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