Why College and University Rankings Do Not Matter

college rankings

Every year graduating high school students and their parents obsess over college rankings. They sift through the College Ranking List trying to find the best college. Because students and their parents want admission to the best universities. However, college rankings do not help students find the right college for them.

The reality is college rankings are biased because colleges self-report. There’s no outside source that confirms the data they submit. They do not need to be held accountable. And college rankings are based on someone else’s criteria and are not your own, which is the most important.

Problems With College Rankings

Every year U.S. News & World releases a list of college rankings. This list is highly sought after. However, as I mentioned, universities are compared to each other based on questionable data provided by each university. These institutions have been relied on to self-report academic statistics. Self-reporting without auditing may result in dishonesty and inaccuracies. Therefore, college rankings also are prone to manipulation.

A good example of this manipulation is Columbia University. They are a prominent university that has been ranked highly on U.S. News & World’s list. Early this year Columbia was ranked Number 2 until claims of potential fraudulent data arose, then it was unranked taking a fall to the Number 18 spot on the list for 2023 Best Colleges.

What Caused Columbia University To Drop In Rank

The cause of Columbia’s drop in ranking was because of one of their own employees. Mathematics Professor, Michael Thaddeus, suspected that the numbers submitted by the university were fraudulent. Dr. Thaddeus decided to analyze the statistics and publish a full analysis which proved the statistics were misleading.

The former head of Columbia’s mathematics department had to dig through piles of information and statistics to confidently identify where the university was embellishing its statistics. Dr. Thaddeus said, “I’ve long believed that all university rankings are essentially worthless. They’re based on data that have very little to do with the academic merit of an institution and that the data might not be accurate in the first place.” 

I applaud Dr. Thaddeus for his honesty as it not only revealed deceit and deception but also revealed a flaw in the ranking system.

college ranking do not matter

Fraudulent and Misleading Data

It’s clear, that colleges can manipulate their data very easily. If a college wants to improve its ranking, it can place more emphasis on certain areas or programs to appear better. Some universities may rank higher due to a certain program or because of the funding they have invested in research in that program. Not every aspect that goes into calculating ranking is important or applicable to potential students. As you can see, being the best is very subjective. Unfortunately, sometimes being the best and highest ranked is only beneficial to the college and not the students.

Columbia University is not the first university to provide misleading information and likely won’t be the last. The former Temple University Business School Dean, Moshe Porat, was convicted of fraud in 2021. Porat and his conspirators submitted false information to U.S  News & World to increase program rankings. It’s not only prominent schools that do this.

Create A Personalized College Ranking

What’s the solution? Don’t rely on someone else’s college ranking, instead create your own ranking system. Base your ranking on what is important to you because someone else’s rankings will not always point you in the best direction.

Here are some things to consider. Affordability. How much does it cost to attend the college you’re interested in? The last thing you want to do is to go into debt. Does the college have your major? If so, is the program well-structured? Does it have the classes you want? Be sure to check out the accreditation of the program. Some accreditations are better than others. What is the graduation rate? Do students finish their degrees on time?

I encourage you to look at campus safety. Is the college in a small town or a big city? Which do you prefer? How is their transportation system? Do they run on semesters or quarters? Semesters vs Quarters: The Pros And Cons.

Also consider, campus resources available. Check out the library and tutoring center. Does the college have a free gym or sports club? How good is their medical clinic? Think about class size.  How far away is it from your family? You need to decide what is important to you.

The Last Thing You Should Consider Is The Prestige

When you’re a senior in high school and you’re filling out applications it’s difficult not to get swept up in the idea of going to a top university. Though hard, don’t be in awe of prestige and name. For 90% of students, this will not be a factor in getting a better education or job. Bragging rights of attending a higher institution will wane and you be left with huge debt and a degree that a lot of other people have too.

How To Choose Your College

I want you to choose your college the Your College Sensei way. Keep it simple and don’t allow your emotions to make the decision.

I know, choosing a college is a very big decision. It can be an overwhelming and intimidating endeavor as you scrutinize every detail. While there is a lot to think about and consider, it is possible to simplify the process by alleviating a lot of stress. There are two things you need to consider; they are essential and will allow you to narrow your search and help you form your list of potential schools quickly and concisely—major and cost. It is as simple as that. When you feel like you’re overwhelmed and anxious just revert back to major and cost and that will help you focus and narrow down your choices.

Never forget, the goal is always to get a degree efficiently, which means quickly and with little or no student loan debt. “Through In Two, Finish In Four”. Focus on applying to colleges or universities that will help you reach that goal.

For a more in-depth look at choosing a college, check out this article, How To Choose A College Or University.

State Colleges

I am a huge advocate and supporter of state colleges. State colleges are affordable because they are public institutions with lower tuition and fees. I encourage you to consider a state college as they are typically closer to home and the transition from high school to college is easier when you have family support. Here is a list of all the benefits of living at home, The Perks Of Living At Home During College. State colleges have accreditation and in-demand academic programs. When considering your future, remember a degree from a state college will not only provide a solid academic foundation it can lead to a great career.

What Degree Do Future Employers Want

I receive my degrees (a BS in Business & an MBA) from a state college, California State University Sacramento. I got into every university I applied for. Some were very prestigious. I spent countless hours calculating costs, benefits, classes, and accreditation. I am a business major, so I reached out to executives, managers, and supervisors and spoke to them at length about who they hire, and what they are looking for in an employee.

It was important to know where their degrees were from. When I asked I was surprised at their answers. Not one of them had a degree from a top university, though most did have a graduate degree. I then asked how they would perceive me if I received my degree from a state college vs a private one. Every single person I spoke to in the business world said it wouldn’t make much difference when making their decision to hire me. They said while the degree was important, where it came from necessarily wasn’t if there was accreditation. They also said they preferred work experience and recommendations. If a potential employee had a degree from a higher institute vs someone with the same degree from a state college plus experience and/or a recommendation they would pick the latter every single time.

I think you know what I did. I went and got a job. The work experience they were talking about, I wanted to have. I also began to build my network because I want letters of recommendation. I went to graduate school and earned a degree. It paid off. By 21 I had an MBA and I was a manager at a Fortune 500 company.