Ranking schools by student happiness

The Obama administration wants to produce new ratings that will allow prospective college students to identify institutions with high graduation rates, solid job placement records and generous student aid. But what if students just want to be happy?imgres

“A study discussed in Insidehigher Ed today documents the statistically significant impact of several Princeton Review rankings of colleges on quality-of-life issues. A”t least according to the study, applicants may be be swayed not just by academics (or the qualities the Obama administration wants to highlight) but by rankings that indicate that students are happy, and think that their campus is beautiful.

“The quality-of-life ranking of the Princeton Review that receives by far the most press attention (party school), however, does not appear to have much of an impact on the applicant pool, with the exception of a decline in applications only evident among out-of-state students.

“Princeton Review rankings are fairly well known in admissions circles for their limitations. The rankings are based entirely on student surveys at their own institutions. So students are reacting to how they feel about student happiness, interaction with professors and the quality of food — without any basis for comparison to other institutions. No part of the ranking actually involves anyone comparing institutions. But the study being released today — being published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis — says that these rankings matter to prospective students. (The article abstract is available here.) Continue reading “Ranking schools by student happiness”

Ranking colleges by value

President Obama began promoting a plan in August to rate colleges on their value and affordability and to tie those ratings to the $150 billion in financial aid that the federal government supplies each year. imgres-1

Should Mr. Obama’s plan come to pass, value would not just be a selling point for colleges, it would be a matter of life and death. But there is no agreement on how to measure the value of a college, and there is no agreement, or anything even close, on what value is in the first place, opines The New York Times:

“It’s a quest for the holy grail,” said Judith Scott-Clayton, a professor of economics and education at Columbia University’s Teachers College. “It sounds good, it sounds like something we’d love to know, to be able to rank the value of these institutions, but when it comes down to practicalities, it’s very, very difficult.”

“U.S. News and World Report, whose academic rankings have long been derided — and obsessively followed — by college presidents, now publishes “best value” lists as well. Princeton Review, which has advised decades of prospective students on the best party schools, more recently began listing the best value schools, too. Forbes Magazine got in the is-it-worth-the-money game too, as did, among others, The Wall Street Journal, The Alumni Factor, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and Payscale, a company that gathers data about the job market.

“Some of these analyses approach value as largely a function of cost: How much is tuition? What subsidies are available? Others define it as return on investment: How much do graduates earn? Some factor in student satisfaction or academic ranking or graduation rates or economic diversity, all in varying quantities. These widely divergent definitions produce wildly divergent results. Continue reading “Ranking colleges by value”