I spoke at a very interesting conference, Assessing University Performance, on college rankings and measuring university performance this week in Washington. The gathering was cosponsored by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and the American Enterprise Institute, and a complete audio record has been posted on AEI's website.

The speakers covered three main areas:

1. Assessing University Performance: The Role of Rankings
2. Are College Rankings Harmful or Helpful?
3. New Approaches to Assessing University Performance.

Among the issues discussed were:

  * The history of college rankings and their impact on students and colleges.
  * Do rankings help or hinder intelligent decision making by consumers and producers of higher education services?
  * What additional information should colleges provide to foster better rankings and more informed consumer choices?
  * The Bologna Process in Europe and its implications for American higher ed.
  * Have college rankings accelerated the academic arms race and pushed up college costs?

The speakers and moderators at the conference were:

- Michael Noer, executive news editor, Forbes, which published college rankings for the first time in 2008
- Luke Myers, researcher, Center for College Affordability and Productivity
- Robert Morse, director of data research, U.S.News & World Report, publisher of America's Best Colleges rankings for more than 25 years
- Mel Elfin, journalist, formerly of U.S . News & World Report
- James A. Boyle, president, College Parents of America
- Patrick M. Callan, president, National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education
- Steven R. Goodman, independent education and admission consultant
- Doug Lederman, cofounder, Inside Higher Ed
- Clifford Adelman, senior associate, Institute for Higher Education Policy
- Carol G. Schneider, president, Association of American Colleges and Universities
- Richard Vedder, professor of economics, Ohio University
- Robert Glidden, president emeritus, Ohio University