As of July 2022, Columbia University has been removed from the U.S. News Best Colleges rankings due to misinformation and skewed data surrounding class size, financial aid, and other vital statistics. Inconsistencies in the Ivy League institute’s most recent admissions cycle, a cycle period already tarnished by Covid-19, have been the primary cause for such a jolting alteration. U.S. News demoted Columbia to the status of “unlisted” alongside the prestigious University of Virginia (UVA) Medical School. The Medical School was removed as a result of inflated statistical information, an increasingly pertinent issue within the current educational landscape.
This newly allotted status brings with it severe repercussions for colleges worldwide, primarily in regard to prestige. Prestige is needed both to fund elite research institutions and maintain their brutally selective college admissions. In addition to continuing to vie for first place, these institutions must now provide solid verification that reaffirms their position in the rankings.
Colleges, particularly elite colleges, have been under mass scrutiny since the college admissions scandal of 2019, infamously titled “Varsity Blues.” Led by Rick Singer, more than 50 of Hollywood’s elite paid their children’s way into top colleges, using the “backdoor” approach. This approach included false sports recruiting, ACT and SAT tests taken by adults, and numerous bribed college personnel. The high-profile case, involving celebrities, and universities such as USC, Yale, and Stanford, was broadcast nationwide and brought to light the continued injustices of America’s higher education.
In light of this recent scandal, positive media portrayal is essential to remain in good standing. Columbia is failing to meet these public standards, facing intense backlash as the general public questions why the college cannot easily substantiate data from the 2021-2022 admissions cycle.
Columbia’s inability to confirm the accuracy of its data places not only itself but the college ranking system as an entity in jeopardy.
Since its emergence in 1988, the ranking system has consistently experienced some form of opposition. Recently, the scrutiny has increased, with some arguing that the criteria used to assess schools are largely irrelevant since they don’t account for job stability. Students are hyper-fixated on prestige and whether or not a school is listed as a “Best College” instead of focusing on financial aid or the educational depth a school provides.
Families have become dependent on rankings when choosing between colleges. It is a means by which to gauge their child’s future success and their job opportunities following graduation. However, as of earlier this month, it is prestigious college enterprises, such as Columbia and UVA, that are facing the media onslaught head-on.
Through Teen Lenses: As a rising high school senior, do college rankings influence your choices regarding where to apply? Additionally, do you feel prestige and educational value go hand in hand?
“College rankings definitely affect the choices I make in regards to college. Colleges that are ranked higher tend to have better professors and opportunities, so a lot of it has to do with the education I might pursue, along with the pride of having been accepted to a highly ranked school. I’ve always held that prestige and educational value do go hand in hand, but only to a certain extent. Attending a prestigious college is an accomplishment in itself, but beyond that, college is what you make of it.”
Niya Jag, 16, Senior at Westfield High School, Chantilly, Virginia
“As someone applying to solely in-state schools, ranking is pretty important to me because the pool of schools I am choosing from is much smaller. I believe that there is a reason prestige and educational value often are viewed as a pair. However, there are a variety of newer schools that haven’t yet developed this “prestige” and are still valued as impressive institutions.”
Sophia Roberts, 17, Senior at Westfield High School, Chantilly, Virginia
“College rankings didn’t have a huge influence on my choices because it is a very limited metric. I don’t think prestige and educational value are correlated. However, I do think prestige is helpful after college in terms of alumni and other career-based connections.”
Becca Jeffries, 17, Senior at Thomas Jefferson High School, Alexandria, Virginia