October 24, 2003

Magazine Rates C.U. 21st

Print More

It’s not the U.S. News & World Report rankings, which place Cornell at 14th.

In an attempt to increase readership among youth, magazine giant The Atlantic Monthly has entered the multimillion-dollar college rankings market with the release of its first annual College Admissions Survey, which lists the University at 21, the lowest place of all the Ivy League schools.

These new rankings are based solely on three equally weighted criteria: admissions rates, SAT scores and the class rank of matriculating students. The top five schools are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, the California Institute of Technology, Yale and Harvard. Cornell was the only Ivy League school to rank out of the top 15.

“I don’t think it was for any reason but to sell more magazines,” said Ronald Ehrenberg, the Irving M. Ives Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and Economics, and the director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute.

Ehrenberg called the Atlantic Monthly ranking criteria worse than those used by U.S. News. Atlantic did not consider many important factors, he said, including student success and alumni donations. Unlike U.S. News, national universities and liberal arts colleges are ranked on the same list, placing such competitive colleges as Amherst above Cornell.

Manipulable Rankings

Ehrenberg felt that universities could easily manipulate such rankings. For example, he said, if a college claimed not to require SAT scores, more students would apply, leading to decreased admissions rates and higher selectivity ratings.

Ehrenberg does not feel that the new Atlantic Monthly rankings would have a negative effect on Cornell.

“I don’t think it’ll have an impact,” he said.

But if Atlantic Monthly wants to increase its readership among the younger generation, it just might be doing its job.

Mikhail Zhukovskiy ’05 heard about Atlantic Monthly for the first time when he saw the rankings on an online news service. However, he did not express surprise at Cornell’s placement outside of the top 20.

“Haven’t you ever heard the saying, ‘Easiest [Ivy] to get into, hardest to get out of’?” he said.

James M. Fallows, a leading writer for the Atlantic’s admissions survey, said that the magazine “used this ranking system to illustrate how meaningless rankings can be.”

In fact, the list was accompanied by an article entitled “Illusions of Selectivity,” which criticizes the college ranking system.

However, many feel that it will likely be looked at as just another ranking.

Archived article by Chinyelum Morah