Here's how college rankings are changing

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Facing new competition from the Obama administration and the New York Times, U.S. News & World Report — the standard-bearer of college rankings — has expanded its index to include student loan default rates in its annual report.

Traditionally, the U.S. News & World Report college index has focused heavily on factors such as selectivity and graduation rate, while failing to consider affordability and student diversity. As a result, the annual ranking varies little year to year. The 2015 report ranks Princeton, Harvard and Yale the top three schools.

This year's decision to include default rates, which are listed but don't factor into the schools' overall rankings, comes on the heels of the Obama administration's decision to develop its own college ratings system aimed at giving students a picture of which universities are worth the price of admission.


The Obama administration has promised its rating system will help students gauge which schools are most likely to help them land jobs.

This year's U.S. News & World Report ranking also includes crime statistics for the first time. The move comes in the wake of an increasingly vocal public outcry about the way universities have handled campus rape cases.


Like default rates, the crime statistics don't factor into the rankings, because U.S. News & World Report believes crime is underreported and there are too many variables (campus size, location, number of campus police, etc.) to make meaningful comparisons. There is also no comparable, standardized data on campus sexual assault, the report says.

U.S. News & World Report also has new competition from The New York Times, which this week released its own college access "index" rewarding schools that serve underprivileged students by factoring in the percentage of students who receive Pell Grants. The Times index places Vassar College at the top, followed by Grinnell College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


We want to know: What factors do you think an ideal college ranking system should consider?

Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.

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