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Breaking Ranks

How the Rankings Industry Rules Higher Education and What to Do about It

Colin Diver

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Some colleges will do anything to improve their national ranking. That can be bad for their students—and for higher education.

Since U.S. News & World Report first published a college ranking in 1983, the rankings industry has become a self-appointed judge, declaring winners and losers among America's colleges and universities. In this revealing account, Colin Diver shows how popular rankings have induced college applicants to focus solely on pedigree and prestige, while tempting educators to sacrifice academic integrity for short-term competitive advantage. By forcing colleges into…

Some colleges will do anything to improve their national ranking. That can be bad for their students—and for higher education.

Since U.S. News & World Report first published a college ranking in 1983, the rankings industry has become a self-appointed judge, declaring winners and losers among America's colleges and universities. In this revealing account, Colin Diver shows how popular rankings have induced college applicants to focus solely on pedigree and prestige, while tempting educators to sacrifice academic integrity for short-term competitive advantage. By forcing colleges into standardized "best-college" hierarchies, he argues, rankings have threatened the institutional diversity, intellectual rigor, and social mobility that is the genius of American higher education.

As a former university administrator who refused to play the game, Diver leads his readers on an engaging journey through the mysteries of college rankings, admissions, financial aid, spending policies, and academic practices. He explains how most dominant college rankings perpetuate views of higher education as a purely consumer good susceptible to unidimensional measures of brand value and prestige. Many rankings, he asserts, also undermine the moral authority of higher education by encouraging various forms of distorted behavior, misrepresentation, and outright cheating by ranked institutions. The recent Varsity Blues admissions scandal, for example, happened in part because affluent parents wanted to get their children into elite schools by any means necessary.

Explaining what is most useful and important in evaluating colleges, Diver offers both college applicants and educators a guide to pursuing their highest academic goals, freed from the siren song of the "best-college" illusion. Ultimately, he reveals how to break ranks with a rankings industry that misleads its consumers, undermines academic values, and perpetuates social inequality.

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Breaking Ranks

Colin Diver

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Reviews

Reviews

Diver likens 'the homogenizing effect of rankings' on diverse colleges and universities to a Procrustean bed: not a good way to find a fit.He is conversant with all the data, and teases apart superficial measures of, say, graduate indebtedness....If educators cannot ignore the rankings, he advises, at least they can junk worthless peer rankings, resist publicizing illegitimate ones, and make accessible the full range of data on their institutions.

Offers a harsh critique of the rankings industry and its impact on undergraduate colleges and law schools.

A useful primer on the pros and cons of college rankings.

A spirited, often witty critique of the college ranking industry.

A lucid and comprehensive critique of the 'rankings industry'.[Diver's] treatment of the topic is superb, and I recommend it to any readers who remain undecided about whether ranking colleges is a good idea.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
368
ISBN
9781421443058
Table of Contents

Preface
Prologue
Part I. The College Ranking Industry: From Curiosity, to Scorekeeper, to Rankocracy
Chapter 1. Apples, Oranges, and Refrigerators: Should Colleges Be Ranked?
Chapter 2. Meet the

Preface
Prologue
Part I. The College Ranking Industry: From Curiosity, to Scorekeeper, to Rankocracy
Chapter 1. Apples, Oranges, and Refrigerators: Should Colleges Be Ranked?
Chapter 2. Meet the Ranking Industry's 800-Pound Gorilla—and Its Cousins
Chapter 3. Making "Best-College Stew": A Recipe for Disaster?
Chapter 4. Who Cares about Rankings? Applicants Do!
Chapter 5. Resist or Embrace: Educators' Responses to Rankings
Chapter 6. Garbage In? The Misreporting of Rankings Data
Part II. The Prestige Treadmill: Reputation, Wealth, and Rankings
Chapter 7. Conferring Pedigree: The Educational Aristocracy
Chapter 8. Measuring Prestige by Popularity Poll: The Opinions of "Experts"
Chapter 9. The Wealth of Institutions: What Is a College Worth?
Chapter 10. The Spending Rat Race: Maximizing Per-Student Subsidy
Part III. The Gatekeepers: Judging Colleges by Who Gets In and Who Doesn't
Chapter 11. The Best and the Brightest: Student Selectivity and College Rankings
Chapter 12. SAT: The Elephant in the Admissions Office, and in the Rankings
Chapter 13. Chasing High SAT Scores: The Games Colleges Play
Chapter 14. Intercollegiate Admissions Competition: Winners and Losers
Chapter 15. Affirmative Inaction: Race, Ethnicity, and Rankings
Part IV. Higher Goals for Higher Education: Outcomes, Value Added, and the Public Good
Chapter 16. Inside the Black Box: Can Learning Gains Be Measured?
Chapter 17. Proxies for Learning Outcomes: Instructional Content and Quality
Chapter 18. Crossing the Finish Line: Ranking Schools by Graduation Rates
Chapter 19. Making a Living: The Winding Road from College to Career
Chapter 20. Social Immobility: College Rankings and the American Dream
Chapter 21. Making a Life: The Art of Being Human
Conclusion. Breaking the Rankocracy's Grip
Appendix. Eight Schools, a Thousand Flowers...
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Colin Diver

Colin Diver (BOSTON, MA) was formerly the president of Reed College, a trustee of Amherst College, and the dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he is currently the Charles A. Heimbold Jr. Professor of Law and Economics Emeritus.