The RISD Museum in Rhode Island (via Wikimedia Commons)

The Rhode Island School of Art and Design (RISD) announced yesterday, February 13, that it would no longer be participating in US News & World Report’s annual “best colleges” round-up list. The school cited the “inability of rankings to accurately assess art and design education” alongside concurrent concerns about social equity and inclusion. RISD is the latest school to pull out of the rankings, joining several high-ranking law and medical schools that have opted out of sending their data to the American media company as of last year.

Due to recent curriculum changes across several programs last year, RISD was recategorized from a “Specialty School: Art,” where it was largely unranked, to a “regional school,” yielding a third-place ranking amongst a list of 181 other universities in US News’s “Best Regional Universities North” category. RISD’s current President Crystal Williams said in a statement that the new category placed the school in comparison to other “institutions with which we [RISD] share very little in common,” initiating a larger conversation about the broader efficacy and accuracy of US News’s annual list.

Last year, the “best colleges” round-up came under intense scrutiny after the Ivy League’s Columbia University slipped from its #2 spot all the way down to 18th place when the university’s own self-reported data was called into question. US News began ranking colleges in 1983 and has been criticized by educational experts and university presidents year after year, but the Columbia University “scandal” was the catalyst for several large players to opt out of providing the media company with their data. In late 2022, Yale Law School, Harvard Law School, University of California’s Berkeley Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Stanford University’s School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Duke University’s School of Medicine, and a few others publicly withdrew from US News’s annual rankings.

According to Yale Law’s dean Heather Gerken, the concern with the ranking system is its “misguided formula.” Other critics allege that US News‘s annual lists further uphold class privilege within higher education by encouraging institutions to be more selective in student admissions and creating an economically uniform student body primarily made up of the top 1%.

Williams communicated to the RISD community that the school does not employ the same factors used by US News & World Report to “measure the value of our students or our academic programs.” She referenced a recent survey indicating that 80% of RISD alumni were “proud of and happy with their RISD education,” and that on average, two-thirds of their work “makes the world a better place to live.”

“RISD’s institutional commitment to embodying the principles of social equity and inclusion also means that, where possible, we eschew participation in systems that strongly rely on exclusion and inequity,” Williams noted in her statement. “I hope many more will follow.”

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