We’ve just received a note from a reliable source that the US News college rankings for 2012 will be released this coming Sunday night at 10pm EST.
For many in the academic world, the rankings from US News & World Report are the gold standard. Despite the fact that a cottage industry has emerged for college rankings (including Forbes, Princeton Review and this year’s newcomer The Best Colleges), there is a general consensus that the ones that really matter, the ones that carry the bragging rights, are the rankings from US News. And 2012 will be no different. All the others are just a prelude, a figurative “preseason” to the main event of rankings season.
Each year the big reveal from US News & World Report, for many prospective and current students, as well as alumni, is sort of like the Super Bowl of academics. It’s the big event that everyone looks forward to. And the stakes are high. No one doubts the economic weight behind these rankings, as colleges depend on enrollment and getting recognized by US News effectively guarantees high application rates (students want the best education possible) and thus allows for more selective acceptance rates (thus inflating the perceived academic quality of the site). It’s a self-reinforcing system that allows the best schools to stay on top because they can turn away more students. But whether they admit it or not, it’s also the holy grail for school advertisement.
So even though there has been a lot of controversy over the years about whether rankings really mean all that much, and disputes over methodologies, no one can dispute the fact that people care about college rankings. It’s in our DNA as human beings. We like to get reliable recommendations from experts to make our decisions (think Consumer Reports). And for better or worse, the “experts” on colleges are the companies that do the rankings.
When the 2012 US News college rankings are released, we will post the top 10 here.
For the time being here are the results from 2011:
7. Cal Tech