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ERIC Number: ED506752
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Sep
Pages: 28
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 31
The Role and Relevance of Rankings in Higher Education Policymaking. Issue Brief
Sponsler, Brian A.
Institute for Higher Education Policy
Debates over the use of college rankings are often framed in binaries: ardent advocates versus outright rejectionists, rankers versus rankees. But the American higher education landscape is complex, and so too should be discussions of rankings. Moreover, the policymaking process is simultaneously intricate and predictable--information is processed and evaluated, subjected to the judgments of policymakers, shaped to support hardened policy positions, and ultimately used to justify the outcomes of an inherently political process. College rankings are part of the information policymakers may consider as they usher higher education policy through this complex process. Yet limited information exists on the role college rankings might play in policymaking for postsecondary education, and few suggestions have been offered for how policymakers could use college rankings to support and advance public policy goals. This brief provides an overview of national postsecondary assessment efforts and notes the similarities and differences these approaches have taken in comparison to college rankings, presents several examples of the inclusion of college rankings in state government assessment efforts, highlights key findings, and makes recommendations for enhancing the policy relevance of college rankings. Key findings and recommendations are drawn from a review of the literature on college rankings and postsecondary government accountability systems, and from interviews with individuals from federal and state government agencies, trade associations, and other groups. An overview of college ranking systems is appended. (Contains 6 footnotes, 2 tables, and 3 figures.)
Institute for Higher Education Policy. 1320 19th Street NW Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-861-8223; Fax: 202-861-9307; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Lumina Foundation for Education
Authoring Institution: Institute for Higher Education Policy
Identifiers - Location: Indiana; Minnesota; Texas