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Are College Rankings More Important to Schools than Students?

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Nearly 30 years ago, US News and World Report began the phenomenon known as college rankings with the first issue of “America’s Best Colleges.” The Princeton Review, Washington Monthly, Forbes, Kiplinger, Fiske Guide to Colleges and other publications and websites have followed suit over the years. (As you probably guessed, we’re partial to the StateUniversity.com College Rankings around here!)

There’s no denying that people care about their potential college’s reputation—and no denying that students and parents pay attention to rankings—but a recent college scandal has caused the media to deduce that college rankings might be more important to the schools themselves than they are to prospective students.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, CA is under fire for exaggerating the SAT scores of incoming freshmen for the past six years to help boost statistics used for national college rankings. A senior admissions officer has taken responsibility for the cheating and since resigned. Although Claremont McKenna refuses to identify the employee, some hypothesize that it was the vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid, whose name has been removed from the school’s website.

The falsified SAT scores may have increased Claremont McKenna’s ranking from 11th to ninth in the most recent version of the U.S. News ranking of national liberal arts colleges, but the publication issued a statement claiming that although it will evaluate the impact of the false scores, their current rankings will not be changed. Kiplinger has adjusted Claremont McKenna’s spot as the 18th ranked private liberal arts college, dropping the school from their Top 100 list completely.

Going Away to College

The Associated Press hypothesizes that the incident occurred in part because of growing competition among colleges and universities to attract top students. In reality, the majority of students attend college within three hours from home, putting little emphasis on national rankings for most of them.

The New York Times asked students their opinions on the issue. One commenter wrote that “the numbers have very little impact on my thoughts on college instead i look at the overall reputation” while another claimed “I don’t think rankings really matter. Yes it would deter from you applying to a college. No i do not think that rules over other factors.”

What do you think?

Learn more about StateUniversity.com’s comprehensive college rankings here.

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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