Demand-Side Solutions

An interesting article details efforts by some college administrators to sabotage the US News and World Report rankings by getting enough schools to agree to decline to provide the information they're asked for. It's a good idea. TheUS News rankings are a terrible farce and killing them off would be a good thing. This even seems like a reasonable tactic.

All that said, the very best way to deal a death-blow to this scheme would be for America's colleges and universities to work together and with third parties to try to come up with some meaningful metrics for higher education performance. All magazines make lists, but the reason the college rankings are such a hit is that there's nothing out there. Ordinal rankings are inherently kind of dumb, but higher education leaders both can and should come up with some kind of theory about what service they're providing to students and some method of measuring how well they're doing it. Since the schools don't do anything like this themselves, and since their lobbyists are wildly opposed to having the government do it, the upshot has been to outsource the function to a struggling newsmagazine that deploys screwy formulae to boost sales.

If the higher education community itself provided some kind of better product, then university presidents wouldn't find themselves under US News' thumb.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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