EDITORIAL: Ratings don’t matter

It’s collegiate ranking season, and we’re sick of it already.

On Monday, U.S. News and World Report’s annual rankings of America’s best colleges hit newstands. The magazine ranked Iowa State 38th out of 164 national public universities, a drop of two spots from the previous year.

It also ranks Iowa State 85th of 262 in the best national universities, a drop of four spots from last year.

In a subsection of the report, Iowa State gains notoriety by ranking seventh among national universities on the list of percentage of graduates incurring debt.

Less current, but more positive for the university, were the rankings by Washington Monthly magazine, which came out in June. The publication ranked Iowa State 21st of 242 national universities, a jump of 17 spots from the 2006 report.

Of course, the coolest rankings hit bookshelves Tuesday with the publication of the Princeton Review’s “Best 366 Colleges – 2008 Edition.” This is the survey famous not for its overall rankings – it doesn’t have any – but for its categories listing things like party schools, usage of hard liquor and usage of beer.

The Review only lists the top 20 for each category, and Iowa State only made three top 20s – intramural sports participation, jock schools and professors who get low marks from students.

Although the sports recognition is nice, some of the frequently inebriated might shudder to find out that rival University of Iowa was ranked fifth in hard-liquor usage, 12th in party schools and 18th in beer usage.

Whew. It’s a lot to stomach.

It also raises the question – what next?

Do we get a pat on the back because we showed so much growth in the Washington Monthly poll? Or should we contemplate about the 84 other universities we should be going to, according to U.S. News and World Report?

Should we fire our professors, who are clearly lacking, according to the Princeton Review? And who knew that it was so hard to get drunk in Ames?

It’s clear, by the disparities in these ratings, what they tell us – very little, no matter how fun they may be.

If you want an Ivy-league-tier school, apply to transfer to one. If you want to go here, take charge of your education. Ask around to find what professors you’ll gain the most from. Take the classes most relevant to what you want to do. And by golly, if you want to go get drunk, there’s not much stopping you.