FSU officials: Fix the U.S. News rankings – Tallahassee Democrat

Just a day before the U.S. News and World Reports unveiled the 2023 “Best Graduate Schools” rankings, an op-ed article written by two FSU officials was published on Inside Higher Ed about how it’s time to fix the U undergraduate rankings. 
FSU Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs John Barnhill and Assistant Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies Joe O’Shea both shared their opinions on how the results from the company’s peer assessments are ⁠— perhaps ⁠— unintentionally rigged, favoring colleges that have larger national brands more than up-and-coming institutions.
“We all have biases regarding any number of subjects. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that U.S. News voters often rank colleges either in self-interest or based on a college’s historical success,” Barnhill and O’Shea said in the article. “It’s almost like filling out your bracket for March Madness.” 
According to U.S. News, a school’s peer assessment score is determined by surveying presidents, provosts and deans of admissions, or officials in equivalent positions, at institutions in the school’s ranking category. 
The undergraduate academic reputation peer assessment survey makes up 20 percent of ranking scores. 
When calculating the rankings, U.S. News asks university leaders to judge the academic quality of programs in their field on a scale of 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding), according to the company’s Chief Data Strategist Robert Morse.
FSU currently ranks No. 19 among public universities, according to the 2022 U.S. News “Best Colleges,” and No. 55 among all national universities, both public and private. But Barnhill and O’Shea point to what they see as a flaw in the survey factor of the U.S. News ranking process.
More:Florida State University’s graduate and professional programs continue to get top marks
More:FSU ranked No. 19 in U.S. News & World Reports ‘Best Colleges 2022’ guidebook
O’Shea explained how the peer assessment score can be disconnected from how the colleges are serving their students. 
“How can someone know what so many different colleges and universities are actually doing to achieve their mission and educate students?” O’Shea said.
“At Florida State University, for instance, our student graduation rates over the last decade have risen to among the top in the country, with virtually no disparities in rates among our diverse student body, but FSU’s reputation score on the survey has remained relatively unchanged.”
In a tweet shared by FSU President Richard McCullough, he commended both Barnhill and O’Shea for writing the article. 
“This is an excellent op-ed from my Florida State University colleagues,” McCullough said. “I agree that it is time to give (U.S. News) voters the data to make the best peer assessments.”
Barnhill and O’Shea offered two ways U.S. News could improve the peer assessment part of the rankings:
“Together, those two adjustments could make the rankings a more accurate and helpful tool for families to use in their college search process,” O’Shea said. 
Coincidentally, another op-ed about college rankings being misleading also was published in the Los Angeles Times by the Times Editorial Board
Contact Tarah Jean at tjean@tallahassee.com or follow her on twitter @tarahjean_. 


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