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Columbia & US News Rankings


If you hadn’t heard, Columbia University was called out by one of its own professors, who questioned the veracity of the data that the university sends to US News and World Report. Noting the meteoric rise of Columbia in the rankings, from #18 in 1988 when they debuted to #10 in 2001, to #4 in 2011, and all the way to #2 last year, Professor Michael Thaddeus thought something might be up. The biggest jump was from 2010 to 2011, when it went from 8th to 4th, largely based on the improvement in metrics that US News values, including class size, faculty credentials, and spending on instruction per student.

Columbia sat on Thaddeus’ critique while it checked his claims. But a few weeks ago, the Ivy League school released a statement that said it needed more time to verify its data and, therefore, would not participate in the US News and World Report rankings in 2023. So does this mean that US News will politely take Columbia out of its rankings, respecting their wishes not to be included in the list? We highly doubt it.

Will US News politely take Columbia out of its rankings, respecting their wishes not to be included in the list? We highly doubt it.

The rankings are a multi-million dollar enterprise for US News and, along with their other rankings of graduate schools and hospital systems, represent most of what is left of the once-weekly news publication. So, just because Columbia does not want to submit data does not mean that US News will not try to estimate the figures that Columbia is missing. Columbia is a powerful, prestigious school, but remember that US News rankings have been around since the 1980s. They have enough direction from previous years to include and rank Columbia as they do the other schools. Also, since a large part of the US News rankings is based on school reputation, as evaluated by other college deans and admissions officers, there will be fresh data to include in the rankings. Now, if most of the elite colleges decided to stop supplying US News, that might have some effect on the rankings. But our guess is that, even if that were to happen, US News would alter its formula to use data that is publicly available. There is no way they are shutting down those rankings because some colleges would prefer not to be ranked. The public (and school alumni) want to see those rankings as limited in value as they are.

Our guess is that US News will rank Columbia in its upcoming 2023 rankings, which are due out in September. But don’t expect them to be anywhere near #2 anymore. They have already indicated that the school will drop, as US News has done in the online rankings for the 2022 cycle. But we think that the school might drop even further down the list when the new ranking is revealed later this year.

Tim Brennan
July 27, 2022
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