After listening to the NPR segment or Ranking Schools Based On What Matters, I began to think of all the factors that really matter when determining the top universities and colleges. It was refreshing to hear that Obama was looking at ranking schools based on measures such as tuition, graduation rates, debt and earnings of graduates, and the percentage of lower-income students who attend as outlined in the article: Obama’s Plan Aims to Lower Cost of College.
If you could create a meaningful ranking system for universities/colleges, what criteria would you use?
Here you can view the current University Rankings.
On a related note...check out Lynne's resources in the discussion: How can you prepare for the cost of college?
While I understand your concern for college costs, graduation rate, college loans and accumulated debt, I hasten to remind you that if you look at these top 25 rankings, you see the Ivy League topping the charts. It has always been that way because of the clout they carry in society. These rankings are based on publications and grants that the university receives and this, in turn, draws the demand for their degrees. Conventional wisdom insists that degrees from those institutions will ensure better job status so the price tag is worth it. Not until this past recession did anyone ever question that getting an MBA from Harvard would not yield a great job. Those universities already give a lot of entrance spots to underprivileged. In fact, there was an anti-trust suit brought by the Justice Department because the Ivy League was "fixing" it's underprivileged entrance just to ensure compliance.
Those in university circles take the rankings with a grain of salt. The PR Departments of each school submits the yearly accomplishments, and trust me, the publish or perish is very alive and well in the top 25. That's why graduate students run the large state and heavily endowed private institutions. How do you think we all got our degrees???? Professors at Yale or Harvard or University of Michigan will have a large research project or a controversial book in the mill so their teaching load might be 4 hours. Who do you think is really doing the teaching? The ranking comes to the university by recruiting big named authors, attorneys, retired Cabinet members, etc.
My main disagreement with the push by the present administration to enforce certain standards concerning graduation rates, debt and earnings is that the pressure would be on professors to lower standards, have a higher pass ratio and lower drop-out rate. I assure you, none of the administrative programs they want to push will affect the Big Boys. It will affect the schools who are actually attempting to have a conducive teaching environment. If a student cannot handle my class, then I suggest they go get some tutorial help until they can meet my standards. It is not fair to the majority of students who are ready to handle challenging classes. That's the way we build our student abilities to compete globally, not by lowering the bar ---------------- once again.
Thank you for bringing this up because there are a number of people who think the rankings are actually believed. If you want to take on a cause, I suggest the textbook racket. Now that's really a huge cost of college and just think how lucrative it is for a professor in a large school to require his textbook in Anatomy at $225.00. What a way to retire!
Hi Karen, thanks for such an insightful post! It is good to hear from someone like you who has so much experience at the university level. You make an interesting point about how professors might be tempted to lower their standards so they can make sure that more students pass their class so their university can earn a higher rating. Another interesting point you brought up to ponder is how Ivy League schools are "fixing it's underprivileged entrance just to ensure compliance." I see both sides of this debate. I am an advocate for minorities and the underprivileged earning a good degree. You also want to make sure they are truly “earning” it and meeting all the requirements that their classmates have fulfilled. I don’t know the answer to this or what's truly fair. Research does show that who you surround yourself with has a major impact on how you act and the kinds of goals you set for yourself. A "high risk" student (could be poverty, could be ELL, could be needing discipline, could be both parents working long hours) put among "high achieving" students has a much greater chance of succeeding in school then a "high achieving" student put in a school with many "high risk" students. So according to that logic, you could provide a spot for an underprivileged student in an Ivy League school and they will have a better chance of succeeding because they will be surrounded by other students who are good influences. Maybe those underprivileged students just come from lower achieving schools and they had many more obstacles in their way than the privileged students.