New College Rankings: Who’s Cheapest, Rowdiest, Easiest

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U.S. News and World Report releases its annual “Best Colleges” report in a couple weeks, but Newsweek/The Daily Beast is trying to trump them (and perhaps capture a slice of the apparently insatiable appetite for college rankings) by issuing its own set of lists this week.

But don’t check them out expecting to get an idea of which schools have the top academic reputation. Instead, the site claims to know whose students are the horniest (Wesleyan), what school is the cheapest (Berea College), who gets the best food (St. Olaf College), and where future CEOs and activists matriculate (Harvard and Swarthmore, respectively).

One nice thing about these lists is that less-well known schools feature prominently. Schools making the top-20 list for free-spirited students include College of the Atlantic, New Saint Andrews College, and Soka University of America, all of which were unfamiliar to me. One less-nice thing is that the rankings themselves seem at times, well, dumb. Does Johns Hopkins really belong on the list of “least rigorous” institutions? Have you ever visited the school’s library during finals week?! Kids literally camp out at their library carrels. I wish I were kidding.  Also on the list:  Berkeley, UNC-Chapel Hill, and other universities that I highly doubt are walks in the park.

Results this misguided may have come about because the methodology includes data from, not the most reputable source in the world. Also the idea that freshman retention is a measure of relative ease or difficulty seems suspect.

I imagine Newsweek’ll be hearing from some wound-up Blue Jays in the coming days. After all, the school year is just beginning, so students still have a teensy bit of free time with which to correct mistaken assumptions about their school of choice.

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