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I would also challenge those who dismiss non-participants as "sore losers" with the fact that Dickinson is not alone. Reed stands out on this list. One would be hard-pressed to convince me that Reed is a "sore loser."
First, there are about 650 undergraduate liberal arts colleges in the US. That Dickinson is “generally” considered to be among the top 10% of those colleges (whether ranked by US News or not) hardly makes the college a “sore loser” nor does it make it irrelevant.
As for tiers, I don't understand why ranking one school with, say, a score of 76 as "first tier" and another school with a score of 75 a "second tier" school could possibly be more useful than publishing the scores and the data points in rank order.
My feeling is that the US News ratings would be more realistic, and would better serve both the schools and the public, if the criteria for such equivalency were broader, so that there were a lot more tied schools in Tiers 1 and 2. If you look at the total scores, you can easily spot gaps that separate clusters of schools, and where you could draw lines between "subtiers" in Tiers 1 and 2.