What is the equivalent of “disbarred” or “defrocked” in the world of college rankings?
Without fanfare, U.S. News & World Report announced that it had “unranked” Columbia University, which had been in a three-way tie for the No. 2 spot in the 2022 edition of Best Colleges, after being unable to verify the underlying data submitted by the university.
The decision was posted on the U.S. News website a week after Columbia said it was withdrawing from the upcoming 2023 rankings.
The Ivy League university said then that it would not participate in the next rankings because it was investigating accusations by one of its own mathematics professors that the No. 2 ranking was based on inaccurate and misleading data.
662,000 fewer students enrolled in undergraduate programs in spring 2022 than a year earlier, a decline of 4.7 percent.
“I had hoped, still hope, that this episode would bring much more attention to the foibles and the failures of the ranking system,” said Colin Diver, the former president of Reed College, who has written a book, “Breaking Ranks,” about the college ranking industry. “Unfortunately, most of higher education, especially the elite part, publicly criticizes the rankings right and left, and yet they cooperate with them.”
The formula’s rankings tend to cement the established reputations of the schools, Mr. Diver said.
In its blog post on Thursday, U.S. News said that after learning of the criticism in March, it had asked Columbia to substantiate the data it had reported, including information about the number of instructional full-time and part-time faculty, the number of full-time faculty with the highest degree in their field, the student-faculty ratio, undergraduate class size and education expenditures.
“To date, Columbia has been unable to provide satisfactory responses to the information U.S. News requested,” the post said.