Columbia University Skips Data Submission for College Ranking

The university said it needs more time to reevaluate its data after a professor alleged it may have skewed numbers in previous years.

July 6, 2022 · Updated on July 23, 2022

Edited by Darlene Earnest
Columbia University Skips Data Submission for College Ranking
Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld / Contributor / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

  • College rankings have come under scrutiny in recent months.
  • Columbia University is 1 of 4 major universities with controversy surrounding its rank.
  • By not submitting data, the school's rank may suffer.

The No. 2 university on the U.S.'s most popular college ranking did not submit data for the next ranking, potentially causing it to drop down the list significantly.

Columbia University in New York announced that it did not submit data to U.S. News & World Report for its annual ranking of undergraduate colleges and universities by the July 1 deadline. This decision comes after a university professor alleged the institution misled the ranking organization through inaccurate data that artificially increased its rank.

The university tied for second place with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the latest ranking.

Provost Mary Boyce said in a statement that the university is still reviewing its data collection and submission process after Professor Michael Thaddeus brought to light potential inaccuracies in a paper in February.

"Columbia has long conducted what we believed to be a thorough process for gathering and reporting institutional data, but we are now closely reviewing our processes in light of the questions raised," Boyce said. "The ongoing review is a matter of integrity. We will take no shortcuts in getting it right."

She added that the university plans to publish data this fall to help future students make informed decisions about what college or university to attend. U.S. News & World Report's ranking, meanwhile, comes out in September.

The provost did not state whether the university would participate in future U.S. News rankings.

Professor Thaddeus outlined numerous instances where Columbia University may have influenced data to make the school more appealing to U.S. News & World Report's ranking methodology. Allegations include that the university made its undergraduate class size look smaller to influence the student-to-faculty ratio, which makes up 8% of each university's score.

Thaddeus also alleged that the university influenced retention and completion data, which makes up 35% of a school's rating.

Without a school submitting data, U.S. News & World Report will use publicly available data. The lack of detailed information — including faculty data like average salary or percentage of professors with terminal degrees in their field — may negatively influence Columbia University's 2023 rank.

Columbia University is not the only institution where controversy has surrounded its rank. The University of Southern California (USC), Temple University, and Rutgers University have all also come under scrutiny in recent months. USC withdrew its education school from U.S. News rankings in March.

Former and current Rutgers University students filed a class-action lawsuit against the school claiming they enrolled under false pretenses. No such lawsuits have been filed against Columbia University.