March 10, 2023 | NEWS | By Charlotte Maley
On Sunday, Feb. 26, the Colorado College community received a schoolwide email that announced the college’s decision to pull out of the US News and World Report College Rankings. As a result, CC will no longer be providing the requested information to the collegiate rankings site, which would usually provide the public with data on where the college stands compared to other institutions on topics such as performance on social mobility, senior capstones, and more.
Historically, CC has ranked well – the 2022-2023 report named it the 27th overall liberal arts college in the United States. Additionally, CC ranked 9th in undergraduate teaching and 2nd in most innovative schools. Given the rankings, which are high enough to classify the institution as elite, the decision pull out was not taken lightly, and news of the departure made it into the Wall Street Journal.
In a video released to the public that Sunday night, CC President L. Song Richardson called the ranking system “deeply flawed,” and said that the system is “antithetical to our values, vision, and our mission.” The president went on to provide a few examples of how the report’s method of categorization is not conducive to the school’s values.
For example, the tendency of the ranking system to place emphasis upon high school rank and test scores to measure academic excellence. “We don’t believe in that!” she exclaimed passionately, “We believe that our students are more than their entering metrics.” CC, although joining a trend that started last November by ‘top’ graduate schools such as Harvard, is the highest ranked undergraduate institution to pull out of the rankings in thirty years.
Before making this decision, CC consulted with a variety of different community members to collect ideas, including students, who are similarly aware of the costs and benefits that make the issue particularly tricky.
“I am a little torn about this decision,” said Kaitlyn Wilks ‘26. “On the one hand, I understand that the ratings are inherently flawed. But on the other, removing CC from the rankings also removes it from the view of many people who don’t have connections here. I mean, I’ve lived in Colorado my whole life and only heard of CC my junior year of high school.”
Although not conducive with the school’s values, it has yet to be clear whether pulling out of the ranking system will result in a drop in applicants. The US News and World Report Best College’s ranking has been recognized by some as a good marketing strategy for colleges that score at the top and is a resource for applicants that want to find out about schools that may fit their desire for prestige.
“[The ranking] didn’t have much sway over what I chose,” said Beth Thompson ‘26, “However CC’s status as a prestigious school and their acceptance rate did impact my decision to apply, and their standing may have contributed to how I first learned about CC.”
In the college admissions game, it’s not just students who must sell their brand, but schools as well; when it comes down to it, choices come down to competition and comparison, and you fare the best if you have the best numbers. What happens, however, when you don’t have a number at all, is unclear.
Looking forward, the school will focus more upon its unique goals, and not on trying to adapt to the uniform metrics of what constitutes a successful undergraduate school. According to President Richardson, this means “fostering creativity and innovation, helping our students engage in courageous conversation, and to do bold and courageous things as they already do.” She hopes that other schools will join us in this “bold step forward.”