Columbia opting out of USNWR undergraduate rankings

Following in the footsteps of many of its graduate schools, and in the aftermath of its manipulating and falsifying data submitted to USNWR, Columbia’s undergraduate colleges are withdrawing from participating in the survey.

Maintaining a separate CDS for Columbia General Studies is a . . . choice.


Columbia decided last year to provide two Common Data Sets: one for Columbia College and Columbia Engineering, and one for Columbia General Studies. Columbia is unique in its three-school undergraduate structure, and this dual approach provides a better, fuller picture of our distinct programs. Announcement From the University Regarding U.S. News and World Report’s Undergraduate Survey | Office of the Provost (

Not even a parenthetical mention of Barnard? Not very gallant of them.

Oh, I’m sure Barnard is thrilled not to be mentioned, actually.


Quit the game after the embarrassment of getting caught cheating in the game?


Columbia’s PR dept and all fancy-schmancy wording notwithstanding, this sure feels like the college admissions / rankings version of something akin to “I’m taking my ball and going home.”


I would agree but take it several steps further.

I knew the rules.
I decided to play.
I actively and creatively cheated.
I embraced the ill gotten accolades.
I was caught cheating (by one of my own).
I refuse to acknowledge cheating.
I now refuse to play because I won’t win.
I will ride my reputation in part built on lies.

Pretty incredible if no individuals are held accountable.


Just wait until their applications start dropping. It may be a slow drip but a lot of people use USNWR to make their list.

Im waiting for this headline: To alleviate their application decline, Columbia University has hired the chief marketing officer from the University of Chicago. We will now send mailers to pre-school students from targeted zip codes.


Since Columbia still plays sports in the Ivy League, that may be buffered by the students who apply to all schools in that athletic conference.


True, but if their reputation starts dropping because they aren’t ranked, their yield could also fall.

People who used to pick Columbia over UPenn, Dartmouth. Cornell or Brown may make a different choice.

It may take awhile but it’s highly possible and more likely probable they will suffer from this.


And one more…
I will say it’s all for the good of the kids


I suppose any accountability would have to come from within (Columbia), because no laws were broken AFAIK.

I won’t hold my breath.

Im sure Columbia was insulted when they dropped below Cornell.

“That’s the last straw! We’re out!”

Hard to believe it’s coincidental that Columbia makes this move after being caught out for fudging numbers.

If more colleges drop off the USNWR list, I expect some other list will become more popular. USNWR is very dependent on its college rankings. So I wonder if they will drastically revise their methodology in order to stay relevant?

There are many other college rankings lists. I always say I like whichever list puts my kids’ colleges the highest.

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Shouldn’t someone who has been in charge there for over 20 years be held accountable? Lee Bollinger has not only been in charge, but he’s also been the highest paid college president for many of those years, partly because of Columbia’s rise in the rankings. Would Columbia find someone accountable after he steps down in a few weeks?

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Should there be any uncertainty on this point, note that U.S. News will continue to include Columbia in its rankings.

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Their list may remain relevant if kids care a lot about it, even if some colleges drop out. Of course if all colleges drop out, and USNWR continues to rank them based on publicly available information, and kids still care, it is still relevant.

This year Columbia dropped from #2 to #18. I wonder what would happen if (hypothetically) it dropped further, to say #26, based on its non cooperation leading to USNWR only using public data.


  1. Kids blindly chasing “T20” prestige not apply to Columbia because it’s no longer a T20 (and therefore not sufficiently prestigious)?
  2. USNWR lose credibility among that section of the public that cannot comprehend seeing a private elite school (that too, an Ivy!) ranked below or alongside public flagships?
  3. Not make any difference to Columbia’s applications, thereby calling into question the true value of USNWR rankings?
  4. Lead to some other change?

Curious to know your thoughts.

Columbia will not lose sponsorship from the student community even if it drops to 26 I think, as long as it continues to place into finance / consulting etc, and class sizes remain as before, and faculty quality doesn’t drop. Anecdotally, my son was telling me that 2 or 3 of the top probabilists at P moved from P to C last year. I am just saying this as an example. Some of the departments are very well regarded. Faculty quality depends on grad student quality – not undergrad quality. Apparently last year, in the stats department (in the business school of all the places) out of 11 kids who sat for the quals, zero kids cleared it – shows you that their departments are very rigorous.

Kids even go to NYU, and I can’t understand that decision at 85k or so, except a small handful of departments like Math, Business and the performing arts.


It also puts to rest any assertion that CU might put forth that GS and CC students have the same overall experience.

As for any future decline in applications, anyone who wanted to go to Columbia for good reasons (i.e. having identified fit), who is also possessed of a functioning brain, will still apply and happily be considered from a smaller pool of applicants mostly devoid of prestige whores.

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In other words, #3 from my list. No impact.

But I expect at least some (not the well informed kids who are applying because of what they offer, but those that are blindly chasing prestige) may not apply.