Thursday, September 26, 2013

Us News v. Pres. Obama, on "Rating" Universities, by Mikaela Kornowski

The US News rating of UW-L comes just weeks after the emergence of President Obama’s suggested scorecard system for universities.

When compared, U.S. News ranking and the President’s systems differ. The scorecard system was created as a response to rising costs of tuition.

The system Obama would like to implement is a review of schools based on average tuition cost, average student debt, grad rates, grad students who received Pell grants, and average earnings for graduates.  The main purpose is to ensure that students get the education that they pay for by considering the outputs.

The ratings of U.S. News is largely input based, considering the test scores of entering students and the ability of the institution to cater to them while they are in school. It does not address whether or not students graduate any “smarter” than when they entered.

Matthew Yglesias of says that universities should not be graded on their input, but rather on their output. He says that students and parents are looking for schools that are difficult to be accepted into, have well-known professors, and have low teacher to student ratios. He states, “That means spending money on merit-based scholarships ... and student services. What it does not mean is investing money in cost effective teaching strategies.”

Universities received US News scores based on many categories, including average freshman retention rate, 6-year graduation rate, classes with fewer than 20 students, classes with 50 or more students, student-faculty ratio, Fall 2012 acceptance rate, peer assessment, undergraduate academic reputation, graduation and retention rank, predicted graduation rate, overperformance/underperformance, faculty resources, percent of faculty that is full-time, student selectivity, SAT/ACT 25th-75th percentile, freshmen in top 10% and 25% of high school, financial resources, and average alumni giving.

Recently UW-L was ranked 3rd overall in public institutions by U.S. News. The university was ranked 26th in the combined public and private category.

Yglesias and Obama’s scorecard suggest that universities should not be judged on the talents and capabilities of their entering freshman. But schools should rather be assessed on their ability to teach and prepare students for the workforce.