After a dramatic drop in ranking in 2022, Columbia has announced that it will stop submitting data for its undergraduate schools to the annual report.

On Tuesday, Columbia announced that its undergraduate schools will no longer participate in submitting data to the U.S. News & World Report College Rankings, making it the first Ivy League university to do so.

According to outgoing provost Mary C. Boyce’s June 6 statement, Columbia decided to no longer provide data for ranking purposes after becoming concerned about the “outsized influence” that the rankings have in the world of undergraduate admissions. Boyce also wrote that the expected Supreme Court decision ending affirmative action “may well lead to a reassessment of admissions policies in ways we can’t even contemplate at this point.”

Columbia made headlines last summer with its dramatic drop from No. 2 to No. 18 in the rankings, following Columbia math professor Michael Thaddeus’s 2022 posting of a 21-page analysis of the rankings. In this document, Thaddeus accused Columbia of submitting statistics and information that was “inaccurate, dubious or highly misleading.”

In her Tuesday statement, Provost Boyce wrote, “Over the past year, we have had a chance to reflect on how our three undergraduate schools work with outside entities to disseminate data for prospective students. As many of you know, we undertook this effort after certain data in our 2021 U.S. News and World Report undergraduate submission were challenged. We conducted an exhaustive internal review, and… issued public corrections.”

In July 2022, Columbia announced that it would not submit undergraduate data from CC, SEAS, and GS for the 2023 U.S. News rankings, but did not officially drop out of the rankings altogether until June 2023.

Many colleges and universities have stopped providing data to U.S. News & World in recent years, criticizing the publication’s methodology and suggesting that the annual College Rankings are a limited means of evaluating an institution. Yale and Harvard Law Schools withdrew from the rankings in 2022, though Columbia is the first Ivy to pull its undergraduate schools from the list.

In response to the increasing exodus, U.S. News has made a few changes to their college-ranking methodology. In May, the publication announced that new evaluation criteria would give greater weight to a university’s success in graduating students from diverse backgrounds.

In response to Columbia’s announcement, Eric Gertler, Executive Chairman and CEO of U.S. News, stated, “For more than 40 years of ranking colleges, we have come to understand that students rely on the rankings and information we provide to navigate the confusing and uncertain admissions process… Students deserve to have a place where they can equitably compare schools to help determine which college is the best fit for them.”

In his response, Gertler stated that U.S. News will still include Columbia in its rankings, using Columbia’s publicly available data instead of any that Columbia provides specifically to the publication. In the past, U.S. News has used data in its rankings that colleges and universities have not made public, only sharing it with the U.S. rankings rather than publishing directly. However, in her July 2022 announcement that Columbia would not submit 2023 data, Boyce stated that Columbia would publish a Common Data Set that year to help students and parents learn more about Columbia during the college admissions process.

However, Gertler’s statement also refers to the impending Supreme Court case and its potential to change college admissions, saying that the U.S. News & World rankings should only be “one factor” in students’ college decision-making process.

Meanwhile, referring to other universities’ criticisms of U.S. News, Gertler wrote, “Our critics tend to attribute every issue faced by academia—including the impending Supreme Court case mentioned in Columbia’s announcement—to our rankings.”

Boyce’s statement also suggests that Columbia is still “committed to sharing extensive information about our programs” and encourages prospective students and parents to take advantage of Columbia’s shared Common Data Sets and their accompanying analysis. Meanwhile, students should look beyond numbers as their sole means of evaluating a potential university home.

According to Boyce, “Just as data are important, numbers alone could never convey the broader experience of undergraduate life at Columbia. There is no way to quantify the vibrancy of New York City, the richness of the university’s three distinct undergraduate programs, or the transformative intellectual experience that all Columbia undergraduates encounter in Core Curriculum classes. Columbia looks forward to continuing to help generations of students and their families get to know and understand this great university.”

Columbia via Bwog Archives