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The US News and World Report College Rankings Info - TopTestPrep.com

The US News and World Report College Rankings Info - TopTestPrep.com

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Published by Top Test Prep
http://toptestprep.com - This is an exclusive interview with the US News and World Report head, Bob Morse, and an in-depth discussion of the US News Rankings, and top Colleges and Universities according to the report. Top Test Prep conducted the interview to find out more about how colleges are ranked and which colleges and universities continue to be in the top tier.

To find out more and to read the admissions blog, go to http://toptestprep.com/blog or find out more about Top Test Prep (private tutoring and test prep) at http://toptestprep.com. You can call (800) 501-PREP.
http://toptestprep.com - This is an exclusive interview with the US News and World Report head, Bob Morse, and an in-depth discussion of the US News Rankings, and top Colleges and Universities according to the report. Top Test Prep conducted the interview to find out more about how colleges are ranked and which colleges and universities continue to be in the top tier.

To find out more and to read the admissions blog, go to http://toptestprep.com/blog or find out more about Top Test Prep (private tutoring and test prep) at http://toptestprep.com. You can call (800) 501-PREP.

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Published by: Top Test Prep on Dec 19, 2009
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08/05/2010

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The U.S. News and World Report College Rankings
An Exclusive Interview with Bob Morse
“The Leader in Test Prep and Admissions Consulting”
Meet the man behind the single most influential list in college admissions. BobMorse is the Director of Data Research at U.S. News & World Report, the head of its revered college ranking system. As the force behind a series of annual publications that have achieved unanticipated fame within higher education, BobMorse has helped to create the college ranking system as it exists today. He wasnice enough to sit down with Top Test Prep and answer some questions.
Start by telling us a little bit about yourself.
I’ve been at U.S. News since 1976. I have a BA in economics and an MBA infinance, so I have a research and quantitative background. Doing the rankings is aresearch and quantitative analysis project. It’s not journalism in the sense that eventhough I do have a blog, the rankings themselves aren’t reporting … they’recreating information, while typical journalism is reporting on an event or analyzingan event or giving context to something that’s happened
You have a blog?
I write the blog once or twice a week called “Morse Code: Inside the CollegeRankings.” Prior to the blog, U.S. News wouldn’t really write about rankingsexcept at the time that we published the college and grad rankings, so the bloggives us the ability to … make announcements.
How did you get connected to U.S. News & World Report?
I worked on Wall Street briefly, at a company called E.F. Hutton. A lot of themdon’t exist anymore – they merged away – but I used to work there in the mid-
 
70’s. I was at U.S. News, but in another department. It doesn’t exist anymore … aresearch department called the economic unit.U.S. News was moving from doing the rankings just based on reputation only – inthe very beginning, before I was involved, they were done very simplistically, in’83 and ’85. They wanted to make them more sophisticated.
How did the college rankings come about?
At the beginning … we didn’t have the thick guidebook and we didn’t have theweb, so it was just something that appeared in the weekly magazine in a verylimited sense, sort of a top ten list. It was not some guerilla force in admissions or higher ed – it was just information for consumers and our readers. Nobody thoughtthat it was going to evolve into anything but an occasional feature or cover story.In ’87 I was put in charge. We were going to make it more sophisticated, acombination of reputation and quantitative data, and we were going to start doingthis annual guidebook. I got involved in it because they wanted someone with aquantitative research background.
How do you assess a school’s reputation?
It’s become one of the more controversial parts of the rankings … controversialamong people in the higher education establishment. The rankings themselvesaren’t controversial to the public. The public, obviously, uses them and is attractedto them to a significant degree – otherwise we wouldn’t keep doing them.We give college presidents and admissions deans and provosts a list of schools andwe ask them to rate which ones are excellent and good, so it’s a subjective judgment about the relative standing of schools based on their academicreputations. The academic establishment doesn’t like that – or some of them don’t.Maybe liberal arts schools don’t. I think research universities do.
What’s most interesting to you about the rankings?
A couple things. One, how it’s become this force in higher education. Somecolleges are trying publicly to do better in the rankings and … make educationaldecisions to improve in the rankings. I think that’s pretty interesting.I think that we’ve filled an informational gap. There’s been a decrease in highschool counseling – not at private schools, but at public schools – high schoolcounseling has been diminished by budget cuts, and the public is really searchingfor tools to help them decide what’s the best school for them. So they’re forced tomake decisions on their own and fend for themselves. It’s been satisfying thatwe’ve been able to fill this informational void. People are becoming morequantitative in judging the best schools.Another interesting thing is that we’ve been part of this accountability movement.Schools are being held accountable for how they spend money, and whether they’re succeeding in educating students: how well are they doing at what they’resupposed to be doing. So it’s been interesting to be part of all these trends.
 
Which colleges have seen their rankings improve the most over the last two orthree years?
The rankings are more stable than people think. Typically over a two- or three-year  period, the rankings don’t move that much, but I think two schools … Universtiyof Southern California and Washington University in St. Louis … have over thelast decade or so made a strategic – they have a strategy to improve themselves,and their strategy is across-the-board improvement, step-by-step. They take smallsteps each year institution-wide, and that’s the formula to improve in the rankings.
What kind of “small steps” are colleges taking to improve their rankings?
They’re not small in the sense that they’re little things. They just do them a little bit each year. For example, [a college] would raise the SAT average, so maybe oneyear it was 1200, the next year it was 1225, the next year it was 1250 … but theywouldn’t go from 1100 to 1300 in one year; they would do it over a ten-year  period. Or they would increase the freshman retention rate. They’d put money intoincreasing freshman retention. The graduation rate would be another one, or faculty salaries. They might put more emphasis on small classes and reduce thenumber of large classes. They’ll do this a little bit each year, focusing on manyfactors of the academic environment.
Have you seen any questionable practices put in place just so a college canincrease its ranking?
There was an event in the summer that came to light, even though I think it wasdebunked: that the president of Clemson … they were not voting honestly on the peer assessment survey … but we have safeguards to prevent strategic voting.Some schools have put in ways to boost their application count. They may have aone or two or three part application, and reject a student on the second part. Theymay not have had any intent to seriously consider the student.When they report their data, some schools leave out minorities or certain types of students … they’ll have left out special cases who are beneath their SAT or ACT profile, so they may look like their scores are higher than they are. It’s unclear whythey actually do that, because they may be inhibiting people from applying. Ihaven’t seen any specific names.
How does a college break into the top rankings?
It’s very difficult. It’s relatively easy, if you’re right beneath the top half, to break into the top half, or to move up somewhat if you’re in the middle of the pack. If you’re in the middle of the pack, it’s easy to move up somewhat, and college presidents have a reputation doing that, like Clemson or Northeastern. There aremany schools – Arizona State, University of Arkansas, to name some – whohaven’t been that highly ranked, but because their profile isn’t that high, they’vemoved up into the bottom of the top half.

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