An anonymous reader writes "US News makes a mint off its college rankings every year, but do they really give meaningful information? A pair of mathematicians argues that the data the magazine uses is all likely to be at least somewhat relevant, but that the way the magazine weights the different statistics is pretty arbitrary. After all, different people may have different priorities. So they developed a method to compute the rankings based on any possible set of priorities. To do it, they had to reverse-engineer some of US News's data. What they found was that some colleges come out on top pretty much regardless of the prioritization, but others move around quite a lot. And the top-ranked university can vary tremendously. Penn State, which is #48 using US News's methodology, could be the best university in the country, by other standards."