Statement on College Rankings September 2007

On September 7, 2007, Washington and Lee President Kenneth P. Ruscio joined a group of top liberal arts college presidents in a new effort to provide clear, understandable information and data about the University to prospective students, their families and other interested parties.

I, and the other undersigned presidents, agree that prospective students benefit from having as complete information as possible in making their college choices.

At the same time, we are concerned about the inevitable biases in any single ranking formula, about the admissions frenzy, and the way in which rankings can contribute to that frenzy and to a false sense that educational success or fit can be ranked in a single numerical list.

Since college and ranking agencies should maintain a degree of distance to ensure objectivity, from now on data we make available to college guides will be made public via our Web sites rather than be distributed exclusively to a single entity. Doing so is true to our educational mission and will allow interested parties to use this information for their own benefit. If, for example, class size is their focus, they will have that information. If it is the graduation rate, that will be easy to find. We welcome suggestions for other information we might also provide publicly.

We commit not to mention U.S. News or similar rankings in any of our new publications, since such lists mislead the public into thinking that the complexities of American higher education can be reduced to one number.

Finally, we encourage all colleges and universities to participate in an effort to determine how information about our schools might be improved. As for rankings, we recognize that no degree of protest may make them soon disappear, and hope, therefore, that further discussion will help shape them in ways that will press us to move in ever more socially and educationally useful directions.

Anthony Marx, Amherst
Elaine Hansen, Bates
Barry Mills, Bowdoin
Nancy Vickers, Bryn Mawr
Robert Oden, Carleton
William D. Adams, Colby
Rebecca Chopp, Colgate
Thomas Ross, Davidson
Russell Osgood, Grinnell
Joan Hinde Stewart, Hamilton
Stephen Emerson, Haverford
Ronald Liebowitz, Middlebury
David Oxtoby, Pomona
Alfred Bloom, Swarthmore
James Jones, Trinity
Catharine Hill, Vassar
Kenneth Ruscio, Washington and Lee
Kim Bottomly, Wellesley
Michael S. Roth, Wesleyan
Morton Schapiro, Williams