The Key to Better US News College Rankings

Ry Rivard:

What would it take for a well-regarded institution — such as the University of Rochester, and a few dozen more like it — to be among U.S. News & World Report’s top 20 national universities? Hundreds of millions of dollars and a prayer, according a new peer-reviewed paper co-written by a former Rochester provost and his staff.

The study, published by the journal Research in Higher Education, argues that small movements in the rankings are simply “noise” and that any kind of sustained upward movement is both immensely expensive and nearly impossible.

Ralph Kuncl, a former Rochester provost who is now president of University of Redlands, in California, co-wrote the paper, which was a decade in the making. He started thinking about changes in the rankings when he was vice provost at Johns Hopkins University.

He said “the trustees would go bananas” when Johns Hopkins dropped in the rankings. The administration would then have to explain what had happened.