updated 5/5/2007 11:49:53 PM ET 2007-05-06T03:49:53

A dozen college presidents have pledged to boycott a key component of the U.S. News & World Report college rankings because they say the popular rankings mislead prospective students and encourage gamesmanship.

The presidents — from a range of mostly smaller institutions including Dickinson College in Pennsylvania and Earlham College in Indiana — outlined their complaints in a letter dated Saturday to colleagues at other schools.

The letter says the dozen colleges have pledged to stop filling out the part of the survey in which colleges rate each other, which accounts for 25 percent of a college’s ranking. The colleges say they also will no longer use the rankings in their own promotions and ask other schools to do the same.

The letter is the latest step in a growing movement led by Lloyd Thacker, a veteran of the admissions field who has started an organization dedicated to toning down the competition in the admissions process.

Many colleges say they dislike the rankings and some already refuse to fill out that portion of the survey, but the letter represents what Thacker hopes will be the front end of a widespread movement. He is lobbying other colleges to sign on, and the topic will be on the agenda at a meeting of prominent liberal arts colleges next month.

“Other colleges are ready to join,” said Thacker, who said his group will also work with colleges to develop alternatives to the rankings. “I’m very encouraged.”

Robert Morse, research director for the magazine, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. But magazine officials have said that, while some college officials already decline to rank each other in the survey, the response rate is more than enough to make the survey valid.

Much of the other information used in the rankings is publicly available.

Also signing the letter were the presidents of Wheelock College, Marlboro College, Trinity University in Washington, D.C., St. John’s College in Maryland, St. John’s College in New Mexico, Heritage University, Southwestern University, Bethany College, Drew University and Lafayette College.

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