College rankings didn’t matter before either

U.S. News & World Report is going through a rough patch as several high-profile schools have opted out of participating in their rankings list and more are probably to follow. Yale, Harvard, and Stanford are just a few of the names that have indicated their involvement with the popular rankings system is over. Those schools will likely still appear on the list but their ranking will be based on only publicly available data.

If you are not affiliated with a college or university, it may be difficult to see how something like this even matters. After all, the list is not going anywhere and to the layman, next year’s list will look exactly the same. But this represents a seismic shift in higher education. Schools have catered to this list for years. Deans have been obsessed about their spots on the list. The idea that seemingly overnight schools are going to de-emphasize the rankings would have been unthinkable a few months ago.

I for one welcome a paradigm in which college rankings are irrelevant. But I feel the need to point out that they always were.

A university experience consists of so many things. Academics, student life, post-graduate success, finances, and everything in between. Even when it comes to academics the sheer number of paths one can take makes it nearly impossible to rank them. There is no such thing as a “best” school. Just a best option for you.

Obviously like any other social construct, rankings can end up mattering because simply people think they do. And its not like they don’t serve some utility, especially with people unfamiliar with the reputation of schools. But the fact that the schools at the very TOP of the list don’t even think the system is satisfactory has to make us question their legitimacy.

We should have always questioned them. We should have never become slaves to a third-party ranking of diverse institutions. High school seniors should never have been pressured to attend a school based on a number that was calculated by a metric they were not even privy to.

Sports is the only time school rankings make sense. And even then any good gambler will tell you not to put too much stock in the rankings. It looks like the Deans are taking their advice.

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