University climbs college ranking system

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    The 2010 list of America’s Best Colleges published by U.S. News & World Report may give readers a quick fix list of the top colleges in the nation, but a flawed ranking system means that the best schools are not always at the top of the list, the university’s dean of admissions said.

    TCU climbed the list three places from its rank of 113 last year to 110 on the recently released list of America’s Best Colleges. According to the U.S. News & World Report Web site, peer assessment or reputation accounts for 25 percent of the score used to determine rank.

    Ray Brown, dean of admissions, said the system seems unfair because the most important school officials – president, provost and dean of admissions – rank the other colleges on the list but have not had the experience of visiting most of the schools.

    “Reputation takes an awful long time to build,” Brown said.

    Chancellor Victor Boschini said the top colleges in the list – Harvard and Princeton universities – had more than a 200-year head start on building a reputation before the university was founded in 1873.

    “The No. 1 thing we’re trying to do is to make sure every undergrad here has the best possible experience,” Boschini said. “That’s what gets you a good reputation.”

    Brownsaid he also attributed the success and rank of the Ivy League institutions to the faculty and their graduate programs.

    “They all have the pedigrees,” Brown said of the faculty at Harvard and Princeton. “Our faculty don’t have the pedigrees. Does that mean they’re not as good? Nope.”

    Brown said the rankings focus on the undergraduate program, but having strong graduate programs influences the score a school receives. He said many of the schools ranked higher than TCU have stronger graduate programs. Harvard and Princeton have medical and law schools whereas TCU doesn’t.

    For now, Brown and Boschini said the university is not doing much to improve the rankings, but instead it’s trying to make class sizes smaller and lower the faculty-to-student ratio.

    “I’d rather do what we think is in the best interest of our students, and if that helps the rankings, that’s good,” Boschini said.

    Boschini said college rankings are just one of several measuring sticks.

    “I think they’re accurate if you use them as one measure of many measures to determine where you want to go to school,” Boschini said.

    Brown said students should not rely on college rankings to make their decision.

    “We have become a nation that uses test scores as a proxy for quality,” Brown said. “Likewise, we are a nation that is using U.S. News & World Report as a proxy for doing the homework (to decide the best colleges.)”

    For the most recent complete list of the America’s Best Colleges, visit colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges.

    U.S. News & World Report rankings throughout the years:

    2010 – No. 110

    2009 – No. 113

    2008 – No. 108

    2007 – No. 105

    2006 – No. 97