Columbia University will not participate in the upcoming U.S. News & World Report ranking of colleges across the country, after a Columbia math professor questions the accuracy of the data that secured its No. 2 spot in the influential rankings, the university announced Thursday evening.
The deadline for submitting data for the rankings is Friday, and a university spokesperson said officials needed more time to analyze the data and respond to criticisms raised by Professor Michael Thaddeus.
In a scathing 21-page review Dr Thaddeus posted on his website in February, he not only challenged the data behind the rating, but fueled debate over whether university rankings – used by millions of potential students and their parents – are valuable. or even exact.
“Columbia leaders take these issues seriously, and we immediately embarked on a review of our data collection and submission process,” Columbia Provost Mary C. Boyce said in the announcement.
At the time, Columbia stood by its data, but Dr Boyce said the university was “now looking closely at our processes in light of the questions raised”.
“The ongoing review is a matter of integrity,” she continued. “We won’t take any shortcuts to get it right.”
A Columbia spokesman, Ben Chang, said he did not want to speculate on when Columbia would participate in the rankings again.
For an Ivy League school like Columbia to withdraw from the rankings, even temporarily, is a reputational blow and could cause other universities to reconsider their participation as well. Many college presidents complain that rankings force them to focus on statistics that oversimplify what it takes to find a good match between a student and a school.
Dr. Thaddeus said Thursday evening that the move raises a host of questions that Columbia has yet to answer.
“Is the university expressing its disapproval of the US News rankings themselves?” he wrote in an email. “Will he also step down in the years to come? Why can’t the work be completed? What was it about the issues I raised that apparently derailed the process? »
The university had provided “no substantive response to the concrete problems that I raised”, he added.
In Dr. Thaddeus’ review, he cited evidence he collected suggesting that Columbia had made its undergraduate class sizes appear smaller, its instructional expenditures larger, and its faculty more educated.
The next edition of the ranking is due out in September, officials said. To help prospective students get away with it, Dr. Boyce said Columbia plans to release a Commons Data Set, a loosely standardized set of statistics used by higher education institutions, in the fall. She said it would include much of the same information included in US News profiles.
Dr. Thaddeus said he understands Columbia has prepared such datasets in the past for its own internal use, but has not made them public.
“The fact is, they have documents that would shed light on their past submissions to US News — and might even reveal whether their misrepresentations were intentional or not — but they refuse to release them, even after an overwhelming majority of faculty who voted asked them to do so,” he said.
Mr. Chang, the spokesperson, declined to comment on Dr. Thaddeus’ remarks on the joint dataset, but noted Columbia’s commitment to release a dataset this fall. “The university has long conducted what it believed to be a thorough process,” he said. “Our goal is maximum precision and transparency.”
Critics said the US News formula tends to reward schools based on their wealth and reputation.
In his analysis, Dr. Thaddeus, who specializes in algebraic geometry, found that key supporting data submitted by Columbia was “inaccurate, questionable or grossly misleading”.
This year, Columbia moved up one spot in the rankings to No. 2; the university was surpassed only by Princeton and tied with Harvard and MIT
Dr. Thaddeus noted that Columbia was ranked 18th in 1988, an increase which he said was remarkable. “Why have Columbia’s fortunes improved so dramatically?” he asked in his analysis.
Columbia is not the first university to have its ranking data questioned.
This year, the University of Southern California removed its education school from the US News rankings due to inaccuracies in data that dated back five years. And a former dean at Temple University’s business school was found guilty last year of using fraudulent data between 2014 and 2018 to boost the school’s national rankings and boost its revenue. The school’s online MBA program has been rated the best in the nation by US News & World Report in the years it falsified data.
Over the years, other schools like Iona College, Claremont McKenna College, and Emory University have been found to have falsified or manipulated data.