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U.S. News & World Reports Ranks Online Higher Ed

For a thoughtful take on U.S. News & World Reportsfirst-ever ranking of online college programs, check out Steve Kolowich’s piece on Inside Higher Ed.

He notes that because of a lack of responsiveness and some of the quirks of how online education is delivered and categorized, the rankings are based on data the magazine’s researchers concedes lacks the breadth and depth they had hoped to reach.

Kolowich reports that Robert Morse, U.S. News & World Reports‘ director of data research, told him that “as a result, the U.S. News rubric for scoring and ranking the programs was built based on the data the publication’s researchers managed to get, not what it would have liked to use in the best of circumstances.”

That means “crucial metrics such as retention rates, graduation rates, learning outcomes, debt incursion and repayment, and success in the job market were left out of the equation because not enough institutions were willing or able to provide that information,” according to the Inside Higher Ed piece.

I attended a panel discussion a few months back here in D.C. about the future of higher education. There were think tank experts, top officials from online learning programs, a White House policy advisor, and educators. The consensus of the panel was that there needs to be greater transparency in how higher education (both bricks and mortar and online) is delivered, and what students can realistically expect for their own careers once they complete their degrees.

While it might not yet be ideal, the U.S. News & World Reports‘ ranking for online higher education programs looks like a move in the direction of better accountability.



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