'U.S. News' College Rankings: Harvard #1, Princeton #2, Yale #3 -- Should We Care?

Harvard University
Harvard University
U.S. News and World Report released its Best Colleges 2011 rankings guide, and big surprise, it's Harvard at No. 1, Princeton at No. 2, Yale at No. 3, Columbia at No. 4, and Stanford, at No. 5.


Last year, the rankings were almost exactly the same. Poor Princeton simply slid down a notch.

But for middle income families who feel it'll take a scholarly miracle to get our kids into these colleges based on the tuition prices alone (Harvard's current tuition and fees: $38,416), I wonder, should we care about these ranking lists?


Do we really need another college ranking list of the same old, same old top-notch colleges? Do we need a yearly report to remind us that Ivy League schools are still the best (and most expensive), year after year? Is this really news? Do Harvard and Princeton really need this annual brownie button?

Over on U.S. News & World Report, Brian Burnsed says, "Though the top-ranked schools garner much acclaim, the rankings aren't produced simply to benefit students who are considering attending institutions like Harvard and Williams." (Williams College was named No. 1 national liberal arts college.)

Burnsed continues, "And though the worst of the financial crisis seems to have passed, finding value in the increasingly expensive world of higher education is still one of the most important -- if not the most important -- factors in choosing a school."

He points out that "U.S. News uses its array of college data to provide insight to students of various academic and socioeconomic backgrounds."

Here's his proof:

U.S. News & World Report also changed their methodology for 2011, opting to display the rank of the top 75 percent of schools in each category, up from 50 percent, weighing in graduation rate performance more heavily, and factoring in the opinions of high school counselors for the ranking calculations for National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges.

Forbes also ranks colleges and universities every year, taking the quality of the education, the experience of the students, and how much their graduates achieve into consideration. However, they only review "9 percent of the 6,600 accredited postsecondary institutions in the U.S." Surprise, Princeton made that list, too.

Hmmm, I'm still not sure how valuable these college ranking lists are to me and my family, at least in terms of the top of the list. Maybe if I dig a little deeper.

What do you think? Do you read these college ranking lists?


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