Long widely recognized, the US News college ranking is facing criticism after it precipitously dropped an Ivy League university down its pecking order amid data discrepancies.
Columbia University in New York City was previously ranked as US News’s second best university. But its recent drop to the 18th spot has many questioning the legitimacy of the annual ranking system and its substantial influence, the New York Times reported.
Columbia math professor Michael Thaddeus in February accused the university of submitting inaccurate data related to its class sizes, number of full-time faculty and other statistics.
As a result of Thaddeus’s report, Columbia announced that it would not submit statistics for this year’s ranking and would conduct a review of its own data practices.
US News & World Report then said in July that it had revised last year’s ranking, listing Columbia as “unranked” compared with its previous No 2 spot.
A spokesperson from the university on Friday confirmed that previously submitted figures had been overstated, specifically related to how many small classes the university offers and the number of faculty members that hold terminal degrees, CNN reported.
“We deeply regret the deficiencies in our prior reporting and are committed to doing better,” university officials said in a statement.
Then this week, US News & World Report relegated Columbia to the No 18 spot, citing concerns about its data.
US News faced criticism for relying greatly on data that universities self-report to compile its list, which is a substantial influence on students’ decisions about which college to attend, the Times reported.
“The broader lesson everyone should keep in mind is that US News has shown its operations are so shoddy that both of [the rankings] are meaningless,” Thaddeus said to the Times.
He added: “If any institution can decline from No 2 to No 18 in a single year, it just discredits the whole ranking operation.”
This is not the first time a university has been accused of manipulating the college ranking.
In March a former dean of Temple University received a 14-month prison sentence for fraud after submitting false data to boost the school’s master’s in business administration degree program ranking, the Wall Street Journal reported.