Behind the Headlines

  • Yale Is #14

    August 4, 2011
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    In response to:

    "America's Top Colleges"
    ForbesAugust 3, 2011

    Have you seen Forbes’s new list of “America’s Top Colleges”? You Ivy Leaguers out there may be appalled.

    For those familiar with the annual U.S. News and World Report rankings, this list will stand out for a couple of reasons. First, whereas U.S. News produces different lists for national universities and liberal arts colleges, Forbes lumps them all together. Second, there are the results themselves—and here’s where some of the Ivy League schools get their comeuppance. Princeton retains a lofty perch at #2 (deservedly so). But “Fair Harvard” is (gasp) #6. Dartmouth? #30. And Penn is all the way down at #52.

    So how did Forbes arrive at these rankings? Well, they are to be congratulated for “pointedly ignor[ing] ephemeral measures such as school ‘reputation’ and ill-conceived metrics that reward wasteful spending” used by “other lists” (we’re looking at you, U.S. News). But the Forbes team doesn’t even pay lip service to ideas about a true liberal arts education. This is straight pre-professionalism, with fully 30 percent of each college’s score depending on “post-graduate success” (read: who makes the most money).

    To see why lists such as these are flawed, and what should inform assessments of colleges, check out this insightful essay by Choosing the Right College editor John Zmirak on the U.S. News “beauty contest.”

    The views and opinions expressed in Behind the Headlines content do not necessarily represent those of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

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