Rankings: Something old, nothing new

There are more revelations about test score manipulation, this time in New Jersey.  And all the old arguments are re-surfacing: Colleges cannot be trusted, rankings are to blame for all the evils in college admissions, there oughta be a law….

I’ve often said I’m no fan of rankings because they measure inputs more than outputs, but absent any meaningful articulation of the value of college from the colleges themselves, someone saw an opportunity, swooped in and made some money.  That’s the way our world works.  And super-selective places get a lot of undeserved credit for making a silk purse out of silk.  No small feat, of course, if you’ve ever actually tried to make a purse, I suppose.  But still easier than the other option the old saying presents us.

Lest you think this is new, let’s roll back the clock to 1957.  May 26, 1957, to be exact: Chesly Manly writes his own rankings, based on informal surveys “of scholars and scientists” in the Chicago Daily Tribune, and names Oberlin as the best Co-ed Liberal-Arts College. (I’d like to thank my colleague, Jon McGee for sharing these with me.)

Here is a screenshot.  If you’d like to see the whole article, I put it at this link, and claim fair use for educational, non-profit purposes:

Similarly, Mr. Manly wrote about the best college for men on June 2.  Whole article at this link:

And Bryn Mawr for women. Whole article at this link:


Any thoughts?  Does this change anything?

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