Universities Look For New Ways To Rank Themselves

Career College Central summary:

  • At a time when students and their families are demanding to know what they’re getting for their investments in higher education, several foundations and research centers are already working on new ways to show them.
  • President Obama has proposed that the government publicly rate colleges and universities by 2015 based on such things as average student debt, graduation rates, and graduates’ earnings.
  • How much value a college truly offers is information consumers increasingly want. In a survey released in January by Hart Public Opinion Research, 84 percent supported the idea of making colleges disclose information about graduation, job-placement, and loan-repayment rates.
  • With money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 18 higher-education institutions have been at work on something called the Voluntary Institutional Metrics Project, coordinated by HCM, which proposes to provide college-by-college comparisons of cost, dropout and graduation rates, post-graduate employment, student debt and loan defaults, and how much people learn. (Gates and Lumina are among the funders of The Hechinger Report, which produced this story.)
  • After two years, the group still hasn’t figured out how to measure what is, after all, the principal purpose of universities and colleges: whether the people who go to them actually learn anything, and, if so, how much.
  • The many existing privately produced rankings, including the dominant U.S. News & World Report annual “Best Colleges” guide, have historically rewarded universities based on the quality of the students who select them, and what those students know when they arrive on campus — their SAT scores, class rank, and grade-point averages — rather than what they learn once they get there.
  • U.S. News has been gradually shifting toward incorporating in its rankings such “outputs” as graduation rates.

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