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Understanding the U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” 2007
 

Understanding the U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” 2007

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    Understanding the U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” 2007 Understanding the U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” 2007 Presentation Transcript

    • Understanding the U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” 2007: How it Works, Problems, and Implications for Institutional Research Matthew J. Hendrickson Ball State University
    • Introduction: Ranking Systems
      • Many companies have made attempts at trying to provide the college “consumer” with guides for selecting a institution. These systems were created to aid in making “one of the most important decisions of your life” (USNWR-primer, 2007)
        • U.S. News, Insider’s Guide, Fiske, Peterson’s, Princeton Review, College Blue Book, etc.
      • The most controversial is U.S. News & World Report (USNWR) because it offers a ranking system that the others do not.
    • How the Rankings Work
      • Uses a factor system to assign ranks to institutions in different categories.
      • Surveys 8 types of programs associated with student learning.
      • Relies on quantitative measures of academic quality.
      • Divides institutions into categories based on mission and region (if necessary).
        • The Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching system is used to determine the categories.
      • Gather info for up to 15 indicators of academic excellence.
      • Lastly, they are ranked against each other to create a numerical standing.
    • U.S. News & World Report: Factor Weights
      • These weights were selected based on years of reporting about education, on reviews of research about education, and after consultation with experts in higher education (USNWR-cofaq_brief, 2007).
      • More weight has been placed on the outcome measures versus the input measures.
    • Definitions Morse & Flanigan, 2007
      • Peer Assessment (25%): assessed by peer surveys completed by the administration.
      • Retention (20%): measures average six-year graduation rates and freshman retention.
      • Faculty Resources (20%): considers compensation, terminal degree, student/faculty ratio, class size, and percent full-time faculty.
      • Student Selectivity (15%): based on acceptance rates, high school class standing, and SAT/ACT scores.
      • Financial Resources (10%): uses average expenditures per-student.
      • Graduation Rate Performance (5%): considers actual versus expected six-year graduation rates.
      • Alumni Giving (5%): percentage of alumni donating to the institution.
    • Problems with the Rankings
      • Does not include all institutions.
      • Methodology changes frequently, making it difficult to compare previous versions to the most current version.
      • Only ranks the top 50% of institutions. The lower 50% is placed into two different tiers, neither of which are numerically ranked.
      • If an institution does not provide the data, USNWR will fill in that data, or use the previous data supplied by the institution.
    • Justifications for Rankings From Morse & Flanigan (2007) unless otherwise noted.
      • Peer Assessment: assumes that those in the field are the most knowledgeable about their competition and the status of higher education.
      • Retention: the larger the number of returning freshman and those who graduate the university shows the institution to offer classes and services the students need to succeed.
      • Faculty Resources: the more satisfied students are about their contact with professors, the more likely they will learn, making it more likely they will graduate.
      • Student Selectivity: a institution’s academic atmosphere and abilities are limited to the students who attend.
      • Financial Resources: it is assumed that a generous per-student spending indicates that a college can offer a wide variety of programs and services.
      • Graduation Rate Performance: if a institution has a low graduation rate, there must be other issues impacting the institution’s overall ability.
      • Alumni Giving Rate: as an indirect measure, it assumes the more alumni who donate to the institution, the more satisfied they were with their experience.
    • Cheating the Rankings Ehrenberg (2005) and Woodbury (2003)
      • Peer Assessment: Talk up your institution to others. Host a 1-2 year spending “boost” of rankings to increase opinion.
      • Retention: Relax standards. Spend retention money on other factors to boost overall opinion.
      • Faculty Resources: Pay tenure faculty high salaries and have instructors teach many low level courses (faculty/student ratio). When selecting course size, do not allow more than 19 or less than 100 students.
      • Student Selectivity: Increase application numbers. Pre-acceptance statements and the “safety school”. Reporting of SAT/ACT optional, but only accept high scores. Accept as few students as possible. Go for high “yield.”
      • Financial Resources: Have faculty get outside grants, spend institution funds elsewhere.
      • Graduation Rate Performance: This is taken care of through the “fixes” proposed in the retention and student selectivity sections.
      • Alumni Giving Rate: Have as many alumni donate as possible; get them to donate ANYTHING to increase your percentage.
      • General: Accept only non-traditional students.
    • Implications for IR
      • Pros
        • The creation of a standardized Common Data Set.
        • Allows for competition for increasing educational methods.
        • Provides information to potential college applicants about specific institutions.
      • Cons
        • Upward pressure on tuition due to “spending races.”
        • Competition for rankings can create negative emphasis.
        • Penalizes schools for not participating.
        • There have been criticisms about the use and validity of the USNWR rankings.
    • Selected References:
      • Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching, Classification System
      • http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/about/sub.asp?key=18&subkey=405#4
      • Ehrenberg, R.G. (2005). Method or madness? Inside the U.S. News & World Report college rankings. Journal of College Admission, Fall, 29-35.
      • Hamrick, F. A., Schuh, J. H., & Shelley, M. C. (2004, May 4). Predicting higher education graduation rates from institutional characteristics and resource allocation. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 12, 19. Retrieved [12/8/2006] from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v12n19/.
      • Morse, R.J. & Flanigan, S. (2007). How we do the rankings. http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/college/rankings/about/07rank_brief/php
      • Stuart, D.L. (1995). Reputational rankings: Background and Development. In D. Walleri, & M.K. Moss (Eds.), New Directions for Institutional Research: Evaluating and Responding to College Guidebooks and Rankings (13-20). Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, Winter 1995, No. 88.
      • U.S. News & World Report, Best Colleges 2007. http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/college/rankings/about/cofaq_brief.php
      • http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/college/rankings/about/primer_brief.php
      • http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/college/rankings/rankindex_brief.php
      • Woodbury, R.L. (2003). How to make your college no. 1 in U.S. News & World Report …and lose your integrity in the process. New England Board of Higher Education, Spring, 18-20.