College Rating by U.S. News Will Now Skip a Key Factor
By JACQUES STEINBERG
As it prepares to release its annual rankings, U.S. News & World Report,
which conducts the survey, has dropped from its formula a statistic known as
the yield rate. That figure is the percentage of applicants accepted by a university
who later enroll at that institution.
U.S. News had placed little weight on the yield rate; the figure represented
less than 2 percent of a college’s overall score, the magazine said. But the
institutions, eager to do anything that might raise their scores, had considered
the rate, and its potential impact on rankings, important enough to admit more
students under "binding early decision" programs than they have in
Students who are accepted under such programs commit in advance to enroll at
a college, so the practice automatically improves an institution’s yield rate.
In recent years, some Ivy League and other highly selective colleges have come
to admit more than 40 percent of their freshman classes through such programs,
before most applicants have even applied.
Mindful that the use of the yield rate in the rankings formula had drawn them
into the debate about early admissions, the editors of U. S. News decided to
omit the figure this year, Sara Sklaroff, the magazine’s education editor,
What we’ve been told is that schools felt they could manipulate their ranking
by manipulating the yield number," she said. "We were basically in
a position where this tiny number was muddying the waters of a pretty important
Among the most heavily weighted factors in the magazine’s rankings formula,
Mr. Morse said, are the assessments of a college by administrators of other,
similar institutions, 25 percent of the overall score; the resources of its
faculty, including the percentage with top degrees, 20 percent; its graduation
and retention rates, 20 percent; and its "admissions selectivity" [?
figure that had included yield rates as well as the percentage of applicants
that a college accepts — 15 percent.
Christopher Avery, a professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School
of Government at Harvard and a co-author of "The Early Admissions Game" (Harvard
University Press), said that, in interviews for the book, admissions officers
at several top colleges had cited the rankings as a factor in the decisions
to accept more students early.
Still, Mr. Avery said, he did not expect the U.S. News decision to lead to
the end of such programs. Colleges have other incentives to keep them going,
not least because such applicants are often from the wealthiest families in
an applicant pool and are passionate enough about an institution to choose
it above all others.