Genny Boots, Mast TV Producer
October means one thing in higher education: ranking season. Clear away your Fantasy Football teams and prepare for the onslaught of college rankings. Parents and students find their perfect college match pouring through lists of “Best in the West,”
“Best Post-Grad Salary,” “Best Campus Life” and many more.
And it’s all a load of hooey.
“All of us in higher education like to dislike the rankings. Particularly anything that presumes to reduce something as complex as a university to a single number and then to rank it,” said Pacific Lutheran University President Thomas Krise.
According to Krise, some of the biggest flaws to the ranking system are how often the ranked qualities change. One of the biggest names in college ranking is the U.S. News and World Report magazine “and they have never had the same criteria two years in a row,” said Krise
Even the College Scorecard, released earlier this fall by the White House, has been resisted from leaders in higher education. These rankings are a series of equations based on selective data. For the Scorecard, the only students included are those who have federal financial aid. For many private schools, including PLU, this excludes a significant part of student population.
One of the biggest topics among college rankings is post-graduation salaries. PLU was recently ranked ninth in Washington State for post-grad earnings. For universities like PLU, where many graduates pursue service careers, such a ranking looks unfavorable.
“If you judge an institution on nothing but the salary of the graduates, what is that saying about the purpose and value of college?” said Krise.
Last week, PLU was recognized in the New York Times as a “Brookings Common Sense” school by the Brookings research institution.
According to the New York Times, these Common Sense schools were factored “without a curriculum component and identified the highest ‘value added’ colleges regardless of major.” All of the universities that made the top ten were small liberal art schools.
PLU consistently does very, well in rankings, especially in more big picture, value surveys such as the Brookings ranking. However, according to Krise no ranking can ultimately define a university. The benefit to ranking season is data. “You can credit U.S. News [and World Report] with getting universities to collect more data than they were ever accustomed to before,”said Krise. ”All of us in higher ed are interested in more data and better data”.
The ranking season continues to make headlines nationwide. But for administrators in higher education, it can be frustrating. “The idea of ranking universities is a very troublesome thing,” said Krise.
As PLU dances around ranking lists, take it with a grain of salt.
Hear from PLU President, Thomas Krise, on college rankings: