In many realms, it is taken for granted that consumers need good information: Home mortgages, cars and even cereal boxes come with extensive disclosures. It is hard to think of a major investment — especially one of such crucial lifelong importance — in which the consumers (students and their families) have so little information available about what exactly they are getting. Universities are ranked by outlets like U.S. News & World Report according to their prestige. But there is little information available that measures how schools actually serve their students.
In particular, those admitted with far lower scores or grades than the majority of students at the school need to know whether — and by how much — attending a more elite school is likely to hurt their grades and class rank. They should be able to gauge their chances of sticking with a tough major, graduating and passing licensing exams. Under current practices, there is simply no way to tell how students' qualifications on entry affect their academic success, and so students are left to rely on those alluring national rankings.