I think it's safe to say that many of us in higher ed are reluctantly obsessed (and obsessed might be a tad to strong) with the rankings we receive from the press. Regardless of our opinion about the authority of the magazines and their methodologies, constituents' interest in the rankings translates in our interest in the rankings.
Our publications list our accomplishments on these lists, even if The Princeton review rank us 2nd in ability to take a bus to the airport (no, that's not a category, but there are some odd ones on that list). Each year, we brainstorm ways to improve our rankings and secretly hope that those above us on the lists don't maintain their positions.
I admit that I get caught up in this. I'd love to believe that people analyze school websites and course catalogues before deciding that one school is "better" than another. I have to face facts, though. The guidebooks and ranking issues affect the perception of quality.
But, I want to know why. Why do YOU care about the rankings? If you comment, I'd love to know if you're a student, parent, colleague, etc.