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Northwestern links alumni gifts to rankings

A piece published over the weekend in the Chronicle of Higher Education directed me to an e-mail I had deleted without reading several days earlier.

Northwestern University, an institution I attended, asserted to alumni in an August e-mail that they -- we -- could "radically improve Northwesern's standing in the U.S. News & World report rankings."

Northwestern ranks 12th this year among national universities by U.S. News, a list that is the most competitive by far in their compendium of college rankings.

The Evanston, Ill., university is widely regarded as an up-and-comer; the college guide I owned as a high school senior in the 1980s listed Northwestern in its "highly competitive plus" category. I don't think any college guide today would place NU in the second tier. A cross-town rivalry with the University of Chicago has surely helped, although officials from both universities have told me there is no such contest.

U of C had the stronger reputation when I was a student and has certainly held its own. That university might be accused of having embraced the Common Application two years ago in a bid to shore up its standing on U.S. News -- the Common Application drives up application numbers, which tends to help in the U.S. News calculus.

Returning to Northwestern's e-mail:

"Your gift of any size has a direct impact on these rankings," the message says. Alumni giving is both a direct and indirect driver of U.S. News rank. Northwestern ranks 20th among national universities in alumni giving on the 2010 list, which means it is an underperformer in this category.

The e-mail asks alumni to give by Aug. 31, the end of its fiscal year, to affect the 2011 rankings. "Please make an impact on our university's reputation, its ranking, and what it represents once we have graduated."

This must surely count as one of the more direct appeals -- to anyone -- to help a university improve its ranking. University officials consider it unbecoming to lobby for a better ranking by courting alumni or other college leaders. Yet, many colleges do so -- under the radar.

Reading College Inc. on a Blackberry? Bookmark this address.

By Daniel de Vise  | September 13, 2010; 11:16 AM ET
Categories:  Admissions, Rankings  | Tags:  Northwestern U.S. News ranking, Northwestern University e-mail, U.S. News rankings, college rankings  
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U.S.News&World report rankings is unreliable and very subjective, and statistics and facts do not support such rankings! If you go back to the magazines' first issue of rankings and compare it with its rankings 5 years later, then 10 years later...You will notice that certain Universities, slowly climbed from, say, 50 to 45 to 40...! Certain other Universities saw their rankings go down consistently from, say, 15...18...20...! If you examine the "ideologies" of the owners of the magazine and its editors, you will notice that they are "close" to the ones that climb up and "far" from the ones that "climb" down!

Posted by: editor4tonio | September 13, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

This is hardly new. When I graduated in 2005 this argument was made VERY explicitly in pre-graduation meetings and emails.

Posted by: dawng2 | September 13, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

It may be blatant, but I hope it works. Go 'Cats!

Posted by: michele79 | September 20, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

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