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June 06, 2009


One reason the US News ratings can be gamed is because they're indirect. By comparison, Consumer Reports rates automobiles based on handling, fuel economy, reliability, comfort, etc. The only way for an automobile company to improve its CR rating is to build a better car. US News gives 10% weight to Expenditures per Student. GM beats Honda and Toyota in expenditures per car, but nobody thinks that's something to boast about.

An ideal rating for a college would begin with what the students learn. That's hard to measure, so learning is not included in the rating.

One result is that "buyers" (high school seniors and parents) make important purchasing decisions involving as much as $200,000 based on quite limited information. OTOH many HS students and parents may not really know what they want from college (other than a diploma), so it may not matter much what they do get.

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