College rankings may never die

The AP has a fine update story on the US News & World Report college rankings controversy. This year's rankings are set to...

The AP has a fine update story on the US News & World Report college rankings controversy. This year's rankings are set to come out on Friday, and the AP finds that despite a campaign against the rankings that has led more than 60 schools to stop participating in them, the USNWR franchise itself doesn't appear to be in any real danger just yet. The main reason? The top-ranked schools have little incentive to pull out of the rankings. As the story says:
Some universities, such as Baylor, have made rising in the U.S. News rankings an explicit goal; Arizona State has even made it a financial incentive in the president's contract.

Privately, some admissions deans who dislike the magazine's influence say the rankings have powerful supporters on campus. One dean of a prominent college said it's considered gauche to brag about the school's ranking, but nobody wants to tell parents and alumni they can't do so. Said another: "The biggest issue in the rankings isn't admissions, it's probably fundraising."

It's kind of like a "Freakonomics" question: What is the incentive for a well-ranked school to pull out of the rankings game? Sure, some of them believe that the rankings are one-dimensional, misleading, or even detrimental. But good rankings bring big money. And if you don't think colleges are money-hungry institutions, try living in a building a university wants to buy and tear down to make way for a new arena.

So, looks like USNWR may be safe for now. Lucky for them. They need all the help they can get.

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