College Rankings Student Selectivity Inflation: Is It Real?


Frederick M. Hess and Taryn Hochleitner, American Enterprise Institute


Key Points

More and more schools are entering the top tiers of competitiveness rankings in the respected Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges, largely because of increased application volume and grade inflation, not improved academic quality.
The number of schools in the most competitive Barron’s category doubled between 1991 and 2011, while the share of schools in the bottom categories declined 13 percent. There are now more very competitive schools than less competitive ones.
Applicants and their families should take these rankings in perspective; interactive college guides that let students search according to lifestyle and learning preferences may better indicate where a student will find the best fit.

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