UCLA vs. USC: It's A Tie! Or Is It? - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

From Anchor Tony McEwing

UCLA vs. USC: It's A Tie! Or Is It?

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The crosstown rivalry between UCLA and USC is legendary not just in Los Angeles but across the nation. But most see the competition between the two as a battle of the Titans on the field or the court rather than the classroom.Truth is, the Bruin/Trojan antagonism has always been as much about academics as athletics. It's just that the latter always receives the lion's share of the publicity. But not today.

Today, both schools can equally boast to be near the top of the pack when it comes to institutions of higher learning in the United States. That is if you believe U.S. News & World Reports. According to the magazine, UCLA and USC tied at number 23 among the best universities in the country for 2013-2014. So it's settled! Both schools are equal academically, right? Not so fast.

Since its inception in 1983, U.S. News & World Reports annual school rankings have been treated by many parents, students and even academicians as the ultimate authority and last word on what schools are the best. Many waiting with bated breath to see whether their institution made it in the "top whatever" on the list so they can claim bragging rights or gain insight into what school to apply to. But a number of very vociferous and credible skeptics say U.S. News' list is more ludicrous than laudable.

Don't get me wrong. Both UCLA and USC ARE great universities. And a first class education can be had at either. But it may have very little to do with where the two schools rank on the magazine's list. What's wrong with the publication's rankings you ask? Critics say plenty.

For one thing, the magazine is always tweaking the factors it uses in determining which schools are the best. Schools can also manipulate the rankings by doing certain things that will ensure them a higher placement on the list. The rankings don't take into account quality of education and what the students are actually learning at a certain college or university. And a school's "reputation" among educational peers plays a huge role in where on the list an institution ends up, something which may or may not be justifiable. And those are just a few of the shortcomings. Critics say there are plenty more.

Northwestern University, my alma mater, was listed as the 12th best university in the country. That's fine. And yes, I do think I got a great education there. But I also believe I could have gotten just as good an education or perhaps an even better one at a school much further down on the list.

For me, choosing a college or university should be much more about what suits your specific needs than the coronation of one institution or another by a publication that not only wants you to buy into its rankings, but buy a magazine as well.

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