January 31, 2023
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Participation in U.S. News surveys down

Whether you’re a student, faculty or staff member, evaluations are a large part of your career as a higher education employee. But when it came time for U.S. News and World Report to draw rankings for colleges and universities this year, administrators were less likely to participate in the surveys than in years past.

The overall participation rate among college presidents for the 2012 rankings was 43 percent, down five points from last year. The largest dropoff came from national universities, which fell six percentage points this year with just 53 percent taking part in the report.

The U.S. News peer surveys are worth approximately 25 percent of a university’s total ranking. It asks college presidents, provosts and deans of admissions to rate the “academic quality” of undergraduate programs at other institutions, ranging on a scale of “distinguished” to “marginal.”

The rankings have grown increasingly controversial among educators across the country because they believe officials try to market outdated reputations and may not spend ample time thinking about the information they put on the surveys. But the strongest argument comes from mounting evidence that some school officials simply rate their competition lower in order to make their school look better. In June 2009, former institutional researcher and Clemson University staff member Catherine Watt revealed that her employer increased faculty salaries by almost $20,000 and altered the way it released data to the magazine’s editors in order to move from 38th on the list to 22nd.

Robert Morse, who leads the national magazine’s ranking efforts, said the decrease in participation is a result of a change in the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s guidelines, which the magazine uses as a benchmark. He is considering issuing rankings every other year instead of annually in order to bring participation back up.