New USNWR rankings live now

I’ll dm you.


I don’t think anyone shared Oberlin’s USWNR rankings response, see below, unencumbered by any commentary from me.

U.S. News & World Report Rankings Fail to Recognize Excellence

SEPTEMBER 18, 2023

Dear Oberlin community,

Across the nation, colleges and universities have struggled to effectively communicate our unparalleled purpose and the significant value we bring to graduates and therefore society. We have allowed ourselves to be assessed and defined — and in many cases, distracted and diverted — by third parties with entirely different values. For many years, we have held the belief that it is impossible to distill the excellence of any given college or university into one ranking, and this year’s U.S. News rankings illustrate this truth.

Today, U.S. News released its 2024 rankings of colleges and universities. This year the methodology changed significantly. Of the 204 National Liberal Arts Colleges ranked, 31% (63 out of 204) changed rank order by more than 10 positions. Oberlin is among that group. And 9% of the national liberal arts colleges changed rank order this year by more than 20 positions.

These radical movements in ranking positions are more indicative of how arbitrary the U.S. News rankings are rather than an indicator of a change in quality. Did any of these institutions’ “excellence” change that dramatically in one year? Of course not. The rankings’ methodology changed. What has always been true, and what has now been made clear by these methodological one-year movements, is the ranking system does not measure excellence.

Our U.S. system of higher education is defined by the vast array of unique institutions among its membership. This breadth allows students to find the best individual institutional fit for them. Yet, U.S. News and other rankings organizations encourage schools to move toward a generic center that meets no one’s needs. At Oberlin, our distinctiveness is crucial to our mission and yet the U.S. News rankings would encourage us to move away from that mission to pursue rankings position. The U.S. News & World Report rankings scheme purports to help families understand institutions. But in this effort, the rankings impose a story that is disconnected from an institution’s excellence and distinctive character.

For example, at Oberlin College and Conservatory our excellence manifests itself in our graduates, and the contributions they make in realms such as the arts, sciences, public service, music and notably, academia, where Obies go on in significant numbers and bring the world new discoveries, and prepare the next generation for lives of meaning. U.S. News added an emphasis on graduate earnings in its rankings this year. But this one data point misses the bigger picture when understanding the excellent outcomes of Oberlin graduates, who have gone on to earn more research doctorates than the graduates of any other baccalaureate college in the nation, and place Oberlin in the top three doctorate-producing baccalaureate colleges in the nation over the past five years.

Some metrics removed from methodology include the class size index, percent of faculty with terminal degree, HS class standing in the top 10%, average alumni giving, and percent of graduates with federal loans. This year’s methodology actively punishes the choices our graduates make to work in fields such as art and music, where money is not a top objective. It is these values within the Oberlin community that lead to Oberlin consistently being among the top producers of Fulbrights, and Oberlin faculty and graduates being well represented among Grammy winners, MacArthur “Genius” Fellows, and other markers of artistic and professional accomplishment.

These rankings subtly advance a vision of higher education as a singular short-term, individual transaction focused on money, rather than a tool for human development and an engine for societal growth and progress.

These rankings fail to sufficiently recognize the excellence of our faculty’s remarkable work, including their work with students. The rankings, for example, penalize an institution like Oberlin with world-class Conservatory faculty who both perform with the nation’s top ensembles and have critically-acclaimed solo careers, while teaching at Oberlin. Our faculty’s experience and devotion to teaching is a large part of why our students come to study at Oberlin, yet U.S. News penalizes us for those faculty who hold even, say, a 0.8 full-time-equivalent position, considering them “part time.”

Higher education should no longer allow U.S. News rankings to influence the narrative about college quality and excellence in the United States. We will continue to evaluate what this means for Oberlin’s future participation in the rankings. Moving forward, U.S. News rankings will certainly not drive Oberlin’s thinking about how to provide an exceptional academic and musical experience that prepares our students to transform the world for good.

Carmen Twillie Ambar


Boston U admits 600 students per year to its College of General Studies, which is a January start in Boston followed by a semester in London. Is there outrage in CC about their admission statistics? I don’t think so.

I won’t continue to respond to CC posters on this thread about NU because there is really too much hostility toward an excellent college that serves students well. Fortunately this online snark has not impacted its applications one iota.


So amusing. All these schools loved the USNWR rankings when they were placed higher. Now that they’ve dropped a bit, rankings are arbitrary and not a true indicator of quality.

And to all the posters on this thread that are upset that their favorite school has dropped in the rankings, a serious question: if you believe these schools are truly great for the quality of education and experiences they offer - why does it matter where they’re ranked by USNWR?


I agree. Humans are so predictable, lol. Even college presidents and trustees.

Exactly. Regardless of which school, it’s the same school it was last week before the new rankings came out.

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I don’t value the rankings. I did try to correct some of the trotted out constant false arguments on CC, but that is a huge waste of time. I am extremely happy my kids chose the colleges they did out of the thousands of colleges in America, and believe that fit is more important than any ranking and fit is not universal.


My comment was not directed at you, but to the many other posters who’ve complained about these new rankings.

I agree 100%. That’s how it should be. And I’m happy for your kids.


I think this argument is a bit smug. I agree these schools are all the same as they were last year, which is why having many schools move 10, 20 or 30 or more places makes the ratings suspect.
I’ve never been a fan of US News because their rankings are responsible for a race to the top for test scores. We’re now stuck with a crazy test optional system where many students don’t know whether to submit score or not because schools are afraid to use test scores holistically (evaluating in the context of the student’s background ) because they have to keep scores high for us news. It’s insanity.

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Schools are sticking to TO not because they are scared of USNews but because it is a cash cow due to the greater app volume with the added benefit of lower acceptance rates.


I agree it means nothing.
The issue is that when people believe it, the majority of the population unfortunatley, it means something.

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You are right. Imagine that someone corrected me on that here a while back and I laughed inside.

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For all the comments here, I think most will agree that rankings generally have become less useful in the age of Naviance, College Kickstart, etc. . where you can search schools by the criteria important to your student and also get a very rough sense of their individual odds at a school.


Maybe. But IMO the primary reason schools are sticking with TO because it allows them to get more applications from the types of students that many are looking for…limited income, URM, first gen, etc.


I do not complain about the rankings because of any one school. I complain about the rankings because they perpetuate a falseness based upon the use of criteria that even the more astute people here choose not to comprehend. They do real damage to the less informed. It seems that each criteria tweak gets us further away from what students care most about when selecting a college and deciding on what makes a quality one.


To emphasize this point, admissions odds has nothing to do with the rankings… of course it matters!

Could you expand on what tweaks that they made ‘get us farther away’ from college decision-making?

And that assumes kids actually use it.

“While 58 percent of high school seniors who graduated this spring said they actively considered rankings in some way during their search, only 5 percent “thought they knew” the U.S. News ranking of their first-choice school well enough to identify it, the report shows. Even fewer students, about 3 percent, could actually do so correctly.”

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I have no connection to Northeastern and don’t dispute that the NU abbreviation is used by the community there, but sometimes adjustments are helpful on forums like this to avoid confusion. Alums and fans of the University of Tennessee refer to the school as “UT”, but here on CC that tends to create confusion with the University of Texas, so the Tennessee school is commonly referred to as “UTK” - not a slight or a dig, but just a helpful naming convention. I personally find it mildly annoying when any post refers to “NU,” as I immediately wonder whether we are talking about Northeastern, Northwestern, or Nebraska and have to scroll up to research the topic of the current exchange. So I greatly appreciate the use of NEU and NWU (also surely unapproved by the good folks in Evanston), or just NE and NW, as these terms provide clarity for the reader.


You’re assuming there is universal agreement on what students care most about, and I don’t agree with that. We can agree to disagree.

I will answer quickly and without looking -

  1. Less emphasis on the quality of the student admitted.
  2. More emphasis on lower income and first generation students.
  3. Less emphasis on money spent on faculty and the students themselves.

Having just gone through the process last year, never once were we referred to US News or any of the lesser known ratings by our college counselor. Things we talked about: geographical preference, size preference, social factors academic strengths, and how our school did with admissions at particular colleges over the past year or so. Naviance and College Kickstart is what we were told to use for sorting, and the counselor use College Kickstart to generate an initial list of suggested schools.