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Columbia loses No. 2 in US news ratings


What is the equivalent of a “debarment” or “debarment” in the world of college rankings? Can it be “unrated”?

Without fanfare, US News & World Report announced that it had “removed” Columbia University from the number two spot in its 2022 Best Colleges rankings after it failed to verify the data the university provided to support its ranking.

There was a solution published on a US news site on Thursday, a week later Colombia said it was withdrawing from the future ranking in 2023. The university said at the time that it would not participate in subsequent rankings as it was investigating accusations from one of his math professors that the #2 ranking is based on inaccurate and misleading data.

US News reported that in March, after learning of the criticism, it asked Columbia to substantiate the data it reported, including information on the number of full-time and part-time teachers, the number of full-time teachers. with the highest degree in their field, student-faculty ratio, student class size, and education costs.

“To date, Columbia has not been able to provide satisfactory responses to the information requested by US News,” it said.

Robert Morse, chief data strategist at US News, wrote in an email Friday that Columbia is no longer ranked in several categories — 2022 National Universities, 2022 Best Schools and 2022 Social Mobility Top Performers — because in These rankings used data from university statistical reviews. The organization used to have unranked universities, he said.

Columbia said in a statement Friday that it “takes seriously the questions raised about our disclosure of data” and that it would no longer provide “student-related information” to US News while its own investigation is underway.

“You can’t rush a thorough review,” the university wrote. “While we are disappointed by US News and World Report’s decision, we see this as a matter of good faith and will not take shortcuts to get things right.”

US News acknowledged that it relies on universities to verify the data it reports, which can be extensive, and that it does not have the resources to conduct independent audits. But the decision to remove Columbia from the current rankings has again raised questions about their overall accuracy.

In a separate blog post, Mr. Morse said US News publishes rankings for more than 11,500 schools and hundreds of individual programs each year. Typically, less than 0.1 percent a year inform US News that they are reporting incorrect data, he said.

He provided a list of several dozen schools who admitted to falsifying data from 2019 and were suspended for a year for their candor.

The rankings have an impact on students applying to colleges because it can be difficult to objectively compare schools and visit every campus they are interested in. College presidents complained bitterly that the rankings were misleading, but several institutions dropped out.

“I hoped, and still hope, that this episode would draw much more attention to the flaws and failures of the ranking system,” said Colin Diver, a former Reed College president who wrote the book Breaking the Ranks. about the college ranking industry. “Unfortunately, much of higher education, especially the elite portion, publicly criticizes ratings left and right, yet cooperates with them.”

Mikhail Tadevush, professor of mathematics, who was the first raised questions about Colombia’s data on his web page in February, said the news points to flaws in the ranking system, which failed to verify the data behind it.

“It is clear that there is no third-party verification,” said Dr. Thaddeus. “At some point there has to be a third-party audit because this data is so important and so many people make their final decisions based on it. It would not be correct to say that these data are self-reported and there is no way to verify them.”

The News nodded to critics in its coverage of Columbia News this week. “We remain concerned and are considering various options to ensure that our ratings continue to maintain the highest level of integrity,” it said.

Mr. Diver said it was common practice for US News to suspend schools for falsifying or falsifying ranking data. But he said that usually happened when the school admitted to inaccurate reporting or there was some kind of independent review. “My guess is that they decided to do this because there were credible allegations that they inflated the data by various metrics,” he said.

Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber wrote about it opinion piece in The Washington Post in October, in which he said that while Princeton had topped the US News rankings for 11 years, he was not a fan of the list.

“I am convinced that the ratings game is a bit of a mishegos — a bit of a silly obsession that is harmful when colleges, parents or students take it too seriously,” he wrote. Because students felt pressured to get into highly ranked schools, he said, schools focused resources on moving up the rankings to the detriment of goals such as admitting more talented, low-income students.

Alain Delaquerrier contributed to the study.

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