Going Off on Online Rankings

Complaining about the U.S. News & World Report college rankings while simultaneously coveting a higher slot is a time-honored tradition in higher education. And now for-profit colleges are getting into the game.

For-profits were included in the U.S. News "Best Colleges" list this year, although most did not meet the criteria to be ranked. Some for-profits, however, will be ranked in the first ever U.S. News comparison of online institutions. The ranking remains a work in progress, and the publication has yet to nail down a release date. But three prominent for-profits are already complaining about the questionnaire.

Capella University has opted out of participating in the online education survey. Deb Bushway, Capella’s interim president, wrote an article for the Huffington Post in which she said the questions from U.S. News focus too much on how prepared students are when they enroll, instead of what they learn before graduating.

"Unfortunately, the final questionnaire from U.S. News appears highly focused on inputs rather than outcomes. While the survey does include a few general questions related to outcomes, they provide no clarity on how the answers provided by participating institutions will be weighted," Bushway wrote. "For the average 39-year old Capella learner in the middle of her career, where she finished in her high school class, her high school GPA, SAT and ACT scores and her geographical location are not particularly relevant measures of quality or excellence."

The American Public University System submitted most of the information U.S. News requested as part of the survey, but university officials say the questions do not adequately capture student learning and career outcomes.

“The U.S. News criteria are rigid and specifically do not recognize the degree completion characteristics of working adult students who represent over 90 percent of our students,” said Jennifer Stephens Helm, the system’s vice president of institutional research and assessment, in a written statement.

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INSIDE HIGHER ED

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