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Dickinson Announces New Rankings Policy

Roger_DooleyRoger_Dooley Founder Posts: 106,392 Senior Member
edited February 2007 in Dickinson College
Joining the schools taking a stand against numeric rankings like those computed by USNews, the president of Dickinson College issued the following statement (reprinted here with permission):
Today, the annual "U.S.News" rankings will be available to the public. Please do not expect to see our ranking and associated commentary on our Web site or in any other official Dickinson publication.

As you well know, Dickinson is among those colleges that has long protested the applicability and responsibility of the "U.S.News" rankings. That said, until this year, we posted our ranking and celebrated, or seemingly lamented, every little move on the sliding scale—as irrational as the evaluation might be. To be consistent with our broader position, we will stop posting "U.S.News" rankings or any other commercial ranking system, including "The Princeton Review". We must not advance these instruments. Such systems only create unneeded "noise" and misinformation, and contribute decisively to the frenzy and high anxiety that now define the college admissions process. As you may know, Dickinson ceased completing the inappropriately subjective "Academic Prestige" survey for "U.S.News". Thus, our current action, decided upon several months ago, is simply a progressive step.

While our gesture is now a singular one, we are working with other prominent colleges and universities to make our current actions a shared position toward commercially-offered numerical rankings and to deliver to the public that information which permits serious transparency and judgment about our academic quality and general educational accomplishment.

If we are asked to comment upon the rankings, the following statement will be provided:

Dickinson will no longer comment on the rankings of colleges and universities by "U.S.News" or other media. While guidebooks often provide useful information about institutions, Dickinson is engaged in a nationwide effort, through The Education Conservancy and other groups, to question the methodology and assignment of numerical rankings because, by their nature, such rankings are artificial and often misleading.

In the spirit of openness Dickinson does respond to requests from guidebooks for quantitative information about the college. Our president, provost and vice president for enrollment do not, however, participate in opinion surveys about other institutions, such as the "U.S.News" ratings of "academic prestige."

We encourage prospective students and their families to make their own direct efforts to learn about colleges and universities by contacting institutions and visiting their campuses. There are many fine colleges and universities in the United States, and rather than relying on rankings, students should seek to find the best fit based on their own educational goals and on colleges' specific programs and dispositions.

Bill Durden '71
One quality LAC doesn't constitute a major movement, but it will be interesting to see if any other colleges follow suit.
Post edited by Roger_Dooley on

Replies to: Dickinson Announces New Rankings Policy

  • Luxar3000Luxar3000 Registered User Posts: 283 Junior Member
    God Bless Dickinson College.
  • babarbabar Registered User Posts: 324 Member
    YAY for Dickinson!
  • MallomarCookieMallomarCookie Registered User Posts: 3,181 Senior Member
    I think the general public will not view this as a triumph in the fight against meaningless rankings and prestige-mongering...they will view this as Dickinson being a sore loser. We need a college that's ranked highly in US News to speak out against it.
  • zephyr151zephyr151 Registered User Posts: 1,659 Senior Member
    I doubt that the 41st-ranked LAC is really going to make a difference.
  • TarhuntTarhunt Registered User Posts: 2,138 Senior Member
    To me, there are several assumptions here I have a hard time swallowing:

    1. The US News rankings are somehow "bad." I don't think they're bad. Considering the data that is available, I think US News does a very fine job. It's not perfect. There are numbers that would be more useful (for instance, knowledge and skills before and after a given college's education). But those numbers rarely, if ever, exist.

    2. We, as parents, are not intellectually capable of interpreting the rankings. Apparently, only college administrators can do that for us.

    3. Subjective rankings are bad. I would agree only when quantitative rankings are conclusive. Since these are not conclusive due to incomplete or unavailable data, a subjective evaluation is very useful.

    4. Using data to evaluate an institution is bad. I suspect Dickinson uses data to evaluate those it will admit and not admit. Is the Dickinson admissions department bad?
  • thethoughtprocessthethoughtprocess Registered User Posts: 4,167 Senior Member
    Wait, doesn't Dickinson use SAT scores, class rank, etc. to determine their incoming class admittances?

    Why can't US News use similarly objective factors to rank colleges?
  • HindooHindoo Registered User Posts: 5,849 Senior Member
    Thank you, Dickinson! While I look at the US News rankings very intently, I also know that some wonderful colleges aren't ranked in the top 20. My oldest daughter--an A student, superb athlete, and 32 ACT-scorer is attending number 68 this fall, as a freshman. It seems like the perfect fit. We need to keep these rankings in perspective--they're valuable, but only to a point.
  • babarbabar Registered User Posts: 324 Member
    Dickinson uses data to evaluate applicants but strives to select students who are a good fit for the school. US News rankings aren't "bad," but in order to maintain or move up a position, a school like Dickinson has to game the system much the way kids today feel they have to when assessing what will make them look appealing, and this results in making decisions that otherwise might be different. I applaud this school. It is one small step by one small school in the right direction.
  • CorbettCorbett Registered User Posts: 3,438 Senior Member
    Wait, doesn't Dickinson use SAT scores, class rank, etc. to determine their incoming class admittances?
    Sure they do. But in the end, Dickinson uses such data only to sort their thousands of applicants into a few general categories: "Accepted", "Waitlisted", or "Rejected". They don't pretend that their data are precise or accurate enough to assign a specific rank to each individual student -- or if they do, they don't announce such ranks publicly.
  • TarhuntTarhunt Registered User Posts: 2,138 Senior Member

    So, what you're saying is that I have no concept of statistical relevancy. I don't know the difference between a confidence level and margin of error. I have no idea how to differentiate between objective and subjective data. I am incapable of understanding the methods and weighting system US News uses.

    In short, I must be protected from US News because, poor 'ol me, I'm just too stupid to get it.

  • thethoughtprocessthethoughtprocess Registered User Posts: 4,167 Senior Member
    lol, the US News doesn't lie about the data, it just says "according to this set methodology, this school is given an overall raw score of number X, which ranks it number Y"

    It doesn't do anymore than that besides attempt to quantitatively list schools - and most agree that the schools ranked number 5 are better than ranked 15, which in turn are better than ranked 25, etc. It makes for a decent way to look at schools when you don't know anything about them.
  • jdevallejdevalle Registered User Posts: 218 Junior Member
    Listen all I know is that as a high school sophomore, I had no idea about colleges outside of the ivys and a few other big names. I come from another country so my parents or family had no clue either... the US News provided a very solid guide, a prelimanary list to say the least, of colleges I should look at...

    I think that is the real purpose of the rankings and how they should ultimately be used. Its not like anyone is going to pick a school based solely on its ranking. For example im going to Georgetown (#23-should be higher lol) but I turned down a couple of higher ranked schools in Penn (#4 last year) and Cornell (#12 i think). So as long as they are used right, I think they are quite useful.

    I dont understand this hatred for the US News rankings... if they dont really mean anything, then why dont you just leave them alone? You can certainly disagree with them, but thats the beauty of any ranking.
  • calmmorningcalmmorning Registered User Posts: 31 Junior Member
    I'm not so good at presenting my idea like many of ccers here..

    But as a high school senior who's suffering under the pressure..
    I'd like to say that the "ranking system" ought to be more subjective.

    The "US news ranking" uses categories that are overly comprehensive that it is hard for students and parents to know the real characters and values of certain schools.

    To me, the US news ranking, only gives "numerical values" that hardly represent clear ideas of at what things some schools are really excellent or poor at.
  • CorbettCorbett Registered User Posts: 3,438 Senior Member
    So, what you're saying is that I have no concept of statistical relevancy. I don't know the difference between a confidence level and margin of error. I have no idea how to differentiate between objective and subjective data. I am incapable of understanding the methods and weighting system US News uses.
    I am a big fan of statistical relevancy, and I hope that you are too. But if you are, then you should support full disclosure of the statistical data.

    I would challenge US News to actually estimate and publish the margin of error for its rankings. Exactly how large, for example, is the 95% confidence interval on school #27's ranking? Plus or minus two spots? Five? Ten? Would you agree that such information is statistically relevant?

    I don't object to college or university rankings in principle, and I accept that colleges and universities can be ranked into general "tiers". However, I strongly suspect that the US News draws fine distinctions within the top tiers that are not statistically defensible.

    The US News rankings are obviously useful and of great interest to many people. However, they would be still be very useful -- and a lot more realistic -- if the rankings were more general. For ranking purposes, the similarities between schools like (for example) Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford are more compelling than the differences.
  • Roger_DooleyRoger_Dooley Founder Posts: 106,392 Senior Member
    I think the biggest problem with the rankings is that they presume there is an objective "better" that is more or less universally applicable for all students. In fact, a tiny liberal arts college might be a much better choice for some students, and a giant state university a great choice for others - and neither would figure prominently in the rankings. The way the rankings are expressed, students choosing these schools are made to feel if they are somehow making an inferior selection or settling for "second best", which isn't the case at all.

    The rankings also imply a degree of precision that doesn't really exist. Changing the weighting of the ranking criteria or adding a few new criteria could cause a major shift in the order.

    For students like delavalle, the rankings are a two-edged sword. On the one hand, they DO tell the prospective applicant about key aspects of many schools. On the other hand, they suggest a "better" and "worse" relationship between schools that may not exist.
This discussion has been closed.