Now with fifty percent more bupkis

Mon 09 Mar 2009 09:58 AM

I recently stumbled across Forbes' America's Best Colleges, which was published last year. The assessment is explicitly intended to break the hegemony of U.S. News & World Report's rankings of American colleges, which seems like a good thing whether or not ratings are ultimately a good thing.

UAlbany comes out in the middle of the pack (295th out of 569), which is not at all bad. Among SUNY centers, we are ranked behind Binghamton (119) but ahead of Stony Brook (332) and Buffalo (436). The rankings seem plausible.

Nevertheless, the methodology is disturbingly weak sauce. A full 25% of each institution's score is derived from the number of its alumni who appear in Who's Who in America. I was recently contacted by Who's Who and asked for biographical information so that I could be included. I did not reply, because Who cares? Forbes magazine, that's who.

A further 25% of each institution's score is derived from student evaluations at Now, I think it's a fun website. It allows students to gossip about which prof is good for which courses, and I get pretty good marks there. Yet, as I said in an earlier post, "it would worrisome if an unrepresentative and deliberately somewhat frivolous resource came to play an important part in campus life." Now Forbes expects it to play such a role.