Colleges to U.S. News: You Don’t Rate

US News & World Report College RankingU.S. News & World Report has built a powerful business around ranking top colleges. Started in 1983 as a modest guide for parents overwhelmed by data needed to choose the best college for their kids, it has ballooned into the media-whipped Bible for academic status climbers and college administrators who lust to be in the Top 10. In the end, it has been a terrific PR program for the magazine.

No longer. The Annapolis Group, a consortium of 115 liberal arts colleges, has forcefully rejected the magazine’s slice and dice approach to college rankings. Dozens of liberal arts colleges that belong to the Group, some high up in the U.S. News rankings, will no longer play ball with the magazine. 

U.S. News had a sweet deal. As we know, it is next to impossible to get media to cover news imprinted with another media outlet but the U.S. News America’s Best Colleges rankings is widely reported through mainstream media, and accepted as gospel by the mass market. This rebellion can shake the foundation of the rankings and the viability of a magazine that has struggled to establish an identity distinct from its competitors.

This tussle is about PR.

“We should be defining the conversation, not a magazine that uses us for its business plan,” said the incoming president of the Annapolis Group. In other words, they are going to present their own methodology that will help parents and students choose the best colleges to apply to. Want to bet that whatever they come up with gets a huge amount of publicity and seriously erodes the U.S. News long-standing supremacy in this space.

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