PLAYING THE NUMBERS

THE CLOUT OF COLLEGE GUIDEBOOKS IS TEMPTING SOME SCHOOLS TO PULL RANK BY INFLATING SAT AVERAGES

In a nation obsessed with being No. 1, and with quantifying the unquantifiable, it was perhaps inevitable that someone would attempt to rate colleges as if they were cars. And in an era when one year at a private college costs an average of $15,532 -- and all but the very top schools are scrambling to attract high school seniors -- it was also inevitable that the business of ranking colleges would become an influential and competitive one.

With numbers, however, comes number crunching, and sometimes even number "massaging." In a front-page story last week, the Wall Street Journal raised anew...

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