U.S. News rankings consistent, but flawed

Last year, the University of Miami was ranked No. 38 in the 2012 edition of U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” list. Now, a year later, we’re ranked No. 44.

It seems drastic, dropping six spots in 12 months. But it isn’t. The U.S. News & World Report college rankings may be the most popular and well-regarded, but it has its flaws that make it virtually irrelevant.

U.S. News & World Report ranks colleges and universities based on a formula that constitutes valid factors such as graduation rates, freshmen retention rates and SAT scores, but 25 percent of the total score is based on a reputational survey.

The University of Miami does not fill out this reputational survey. Instead, other college officials and high school admission counselors do. It works this way for every college and university listed in the rankings.

People, some of whom may never have even heard of the university they’re scoring, rate each school from one to five. How can that be a relevant factor in a national ranking?

Data that can be retrieved by colleges and universities should be factored into the overall ranking, but a reputation is something that can’t be measured.

The truth is: You don’t know what it means to be a Hurricane until you become one.

It isn’t just the reputational survey that’s sketchy in these rankings.

If students and parents take the time to go through the long list of colleges and universities ranked from No. 1 to “unranked,” they will realize that state universities that have 50,000 students are being compared to private universities that have 5,000.

That’s like comparing a BMW 750Li to a Toyota Corolla Sport. You just can’t. If you’re looking for the better deal, Toyota will win. But if you’re looking for luxury, it’s BMW all the way.

Since President Donna E. Shalala set foot on UM’s campus in 2001, UM has risen 23 spots in the rankings. We’re the first university to make that big of a leap in such a short period of time.

Ranked No. 38 or No. 44, we’re still making history.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.