Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

‘Tis the season for rankings: USNW names Carleton #6 in U.S.

<nd World Report’s annual undergraduate college rankings list has again placed Carleton near the top of their list; this year Carleton ranked 6th, up two spots from last year. Carleton tied with Bowdoin on the 2012 US News list, which is generally considered the most well respected and well publicized of the various ranking agencies.   

Carleton has consistently ranked high on the US News and World Report ranking since the list was started in 1986 and has also faired well on other lists and ranking mechanisms. But the administration tends to take these accolades with a grain of salt.

When asked about the rankings process, President Steven Poskanzer stressed the importance of looking beyond just the numbers.

“We live in a world where everything that people choose to do, whether it be buy a toaster or choose a college, they expect a higher level of information about their decision,” Poskanzer 

said. “This is not necessarily a bad thing, and we need to recognize that this is not going to change.” However, Poskanzer stressed that rankings tell only a small part of any college’s story.

Additionally, Poskanzer said that with more and more organizations producing rankings and lists each year, the college ranking process has “gotten somewhat cacophonous. Generally speaking, more information is good, but as in the study of the liberal arts, it’s about deciding what information is important to you.”

And Carleton students seem to be doing just that. James Fergerson, Carleton’s Director of Institutional Research and Assessment, noted that the importance of school rank as reported by Carleton’s incoming freshman classes has been declining consistently for a number of years.

The President stated that “we want to do well, but we don’t let the rankings drive what we do as an institution. We want our decisions to be animated by the right kind of values. When you do those things right, the rankings will reflect that.”

Both Poskanzer and Fergerson mentioned that much of the fluctuation in the rankings, especially in the top ten or so schools, is due to how the ranking system accounts for ties. Fergerson also noted that  “You triangulate. If you’re constantly ranked highly, it says something about the school. I think the biggest error with this process is a false sense of precision.”

In addition to the prominent overall US News and World report ranking this year, the magazine also ranked Carleton the school with the best overall quality of undergraduate teaching. This distinction, said Poskanzer, was something the college was very pleased about; it spoke to the community of learning that happens during a student’s time at Carleton, and was not based on the accolades of students when they first arrive on campus.

Poskanzer also weighed in on the methodology of the rankings systems, saying he thinks the most effective rankings place emphasis on what students accomplish during and after college as opposed to the test scores and high school class rankings of incoming students. The president said he was happy to see the US News and World Report system was moving in this direction as of late, by making changes in their methodology.

However, because these organizations are continuously tweaking their methodologies, it can be difficult to make comparisons of a school’s ranking across time. In reality, often times changes in a school’s ranking tend to reflect the changing values of the methodology instead of any large change within the institution. This was the case with Carleton’s position in the Forbes rankings; Carleton had a dramatic rise from 54th overall in 2008 to 15th in 2011, due in large part to the changes in Forbes’ methodology. 

Poskanzer is not alone in his sentiment. In 2007, then-President Robert Oden, along with a group of presidents at other colleges collectively known as the Annapolis Group, signed a statement promising not to publish US News and World report rankings in admissions material. 

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *