Dep. Provost sees flaws in UNWR rank

Felix Sarver

The U.S. News and World Report (UNWR) receives media attention for ranking the best colleges, but NIU does not rely it for advertisement, said Brad Hoey.

The director of communications and marketing said the guide can be a useful tool but visiting the institution and speaking with the faculty is better. NIU received a rank of 194 with UNWR, which is the lowest ranking a college or university can receive. Multiple institutions can earn the same rank.

UNWR groups schools in different categories to compare schools with similar missions, according to the site’s FAQ. Academic quality, like graduation rates, counts for 75 percent of a school’s ranking, while 25 percent is based on peer assessment surveys from school presidents, provosts and deans in the same ranking category.

Alexis Franklin, junior public health major, said the ranking of a school by quality is less important than other factors, like its location. She chose NIU because it is closer to where she lives.

Deputy Provost Earl Seaver said the peer assessment surveys are the highest valued part of the ranking despite comprising 25 percent of it. Increasing graduation rates or the ACT scores of incoming students would not boost overall ranking, he said.

Seaver said he thinks the peer assessment survey is flawed because if a school does not know other schools well, they may rank them lower than a more well-known school like Harvard.

“It’s really a kind of beauty contest,” Seaver said.

Robert Morse, director of data research for UNWR, said the idea of the peer review assessment survey holding more value than academic quality is misguided. Academic quality shares a larger percentage of the overall ranking, Morse said.

“They are mathematically wrong,” he said.

Ranking guides can support their conclusions with detailed data, give ideas of what school to select and motivate schools to improve themselves, according to the College Confidential website. However, other factors, like the social environment and extracurricular opportunities at a school, may be more important than ranking, the site stated.

While the UNWR is popular, it is not the most important factor in deciding what school to attend, Morse said.

A school may be good in ways a guide ranking them for prestige do not consider, said Jacqueline Gray, sophomore pre-family and child studies major.