If you have seen my infographic showing the factors that determine the US News World Report College Rankings, you probably noticed how easily some of the factors can be manipulated.
Of course, we all know that universities are bastions of honesty and civic-minded dedication to truth and learning. We all know that universities lack the sort of greed and corruption that would lead them to purposely try to game the college rankings. (NOTE for the sarcasm-impaired: In reality, most university presidents would sell their first-born child or even move out of their presidential mansion for a week if it meant moving up in the rankings).
But for those universities thinking of cheating (I’m talking to you, Stony Brook- I’m tired of being the laughingstock of all my friends who graduated from top-110 schools) here are five easy ways to scam the college rankings:
1.) Overpay Your Professors– Do you have some applied arts or sociology professors at your university who don’t seem to be serving any useful purpose at all? Why not double their salaries? This will drive up your faculty resources score, which accounts for 20% of your university ranking. The only downside is you will have to raise tuition, but kids will always pay more, especially for a highly ranked school!
2.) Lobby High School Guidance Counselors– The US News World Report surveys 1,787 high school counselors from the most highly ranked high schools. Counselors love attractive, colorful brochures to hand out to their students- why not send them some literature about your university to improve their impressions of you? Maybe you could also send some flowers. You could even send a nice gift basket full of $20 bills. After all, nothing is too good for this small group of people who determine 7.5% of your score.
3.) Go Test Optional– Here’s a spectacularly devious way of gaming the rankings. Pretend that you are outraged by the biased nature of the SAT, ACT and any other standardized test that could ever be created. These tests unjustly favor kids who are better at math, reading, and writing. You can find plenty of flawed research to support your indignation.
Instead of dropping the SAT and ACT altogether (which would make sense if you truly believed the tests were biased or ineffective) turn your school test optional, like DePaul recently did. You will instantly boost your selectivity score (15% of your ranking). The only students who will volunteer their SAT or ACT scores will be the ones who did well, so your average SAT and ACT scores will seem much higher. Also, this stunt always produces a flood of applications, which factors into selectivity.
4.) Pass Every Student, Even The Ones Who Don’t Deserve It– Do you have some students who are failing? Change those Fs to Cs. Graduation rates are the biggest factor in the rankings. Factoring into two different categories, graduation rates make up over a quarter of your total ranking. So call it a gentleman’s C or call it a US News World Report C, but make sure your student graduate, whether they deserve it or not.
5.) Go On A Spending Spree– I love the line from the George Washington law professor who joked that there is a certain amount of money you could drag into the center of campus and burn in order to become a top-ten school. Per-student spending count for 10% of your college ranking. Therefore, the more money you spend, the better. (You may have to raise tuition to cover the extra spending, but that’s OK- somehow the concept of value or price was completely omitted from this system of ranking a consumer product). You should head on over to homeandofficesupplies.net and toss all of your money here.
Of course, you don’t have to literally burn the money in the center of campus. If you can’t think of any new, expensive projects to undertake, you could simply start paying more for your current expenses. If you need some experts in overspending, perhaps hire a few former Government employees.