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UEG 2004

The Best, the Top, the Most  

U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT ranks Columbia University as the 10th best university in the country. The Princeton Review gives its food good scores but says its bureaucracy is the nation’s 17th worst. Columbia also has the third, sixth or 10th best business school, depending on whether you believe The Financial Times, Business Week or The Wall Street Journal (which just a year earlier called the school, with mostly the same faculty, same library and many of the same students, the 34th best).

America is fascinated with competitive lists, and by combining that obsession with higher education’s status-defining role, the assorted ranking systems have become a highly lucrative and influential industry. U.S. News sells hundreds of thousands of copies of its annual college and graduate school guides. The day after announcing its 2003 rankings last October, Business Week’s Web site received two million hits. And new rankings hit the market every year. This year, Entrepreneur Magazine and Seventeen inaugurated their own. (Rice is the “coolest school in the land’’ in part for its proximity to great shopping and cute boys.)

“Rankings give a false sense of the world and an inauthentic view of what a college education really is,” says Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia, adding that they reflect and contribute to “a steadily rising level of competitiveness and anxiety among young people about getting into the right college.”  

Bruce Hunter, chief college counselor at Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s, a private school in Salt Lake City, says he stands in front of the student body every fall and tears the rankings pages from his U.S. News guidebook for just this reason.  

Different systems can approximate a campus’s wealth, credentials of the people who come to it, how much students think they learn and what they do afterward. But no one has come up with a formula combining these factors that satisfies educators. Even if someone did, students care about the various components to different degrees.

Each of the rankings uses a distinct methodology to quantify some element of the college experience for the prospective consumer. Understanding how they work can help students decide if a given ranking says something worth knowing.

THOMPSON, Nicholas. Disponível em: http://www.nytimes.com. Acesso em: 8 set. 2003


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