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RISD Withdraws from U.S. News Rankings

Feb 17, 2023

The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) announced its withdrawal from U.S. News & World Report’s annual undergraduate rankings. Over the past few months, multiple medical and law schools have dropped out of U.S. News rankings. According to Inside Higher Ed, Reed College, an undergraduate college, similarly withdrew in 1995.

Reed College made this decision because of its “conviction that [U.S. News’] methodology was fundamentally flawed. According to Chris Lydgate of Reed Magazine, a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal revealed that many colleges were manipulating the system—some by ‘massaging’ their numbers, others by outright fabrication.” Ever since then, the college has not completed any surveys for U.S. News.

Recently, many top medical and law schools, including Yale Law School, Harvard Law and Medical Schools, and Stanford University School of Medicine, have made headlines with their decision to remove themselves from U.S. News’ annual ranking of medical and law schools. As grounds for their withdrawals, the deans of Yale and Harvard law schools claimed that some of the rankings’ metrics along with its one-size-fits-all approach exacerbate socioeconomic disparities amongst law schools. In a press release, Lloyd B. Minor, the Dean of Stanford School of Medicine, explained: “Ultimately, we believe that the methodology, as it stands, does not capture the full extent of what makes for an exceptional learning environment.” Moving forward, the school will independently report data about its performance.

As quoted in a RISD press release, “RISD President Crystal Williams said, ‘Principally, Rhode Island School of Design does not measure the value of our students or our academic programs based on the same factors used by U.S. News & World Report. Our educational model is predicated on three primary ways of learning: visual, material and intellectual. The value of our unique form of education can be seen and felt in the daily impact our students, alums, faculty and staff have on the world.’”

According to RISD’s press release, “Until last year, U.S. News & World Report categorized RISD and other art and design schools as ‘Speciality Schools: Art,’” a category that was unranked. However, RISD was moved to the “Best Regional Universities North” category, a category that compares RISD to schools that are very different from it as RISD is the sole art school on the list. President Williams explained that “‘this change by U.S. News catalyzed our deeper thinking about the ranking system overall, its relevance to RISD and our work as educators and the criteria used to create it. Many of those criteria have been written about in critical terms and publicly questioned, and are unambiguously biased in favor of wealth, privilege and opportunities that are inequitably distributed.’”

President Williams ends her announcement by calling on other universities to withdraw from the rankings and criticizing U.S. News rankings as a system that “‘strongly rel[ies] on exclusion and inequity.’”

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