Classes have begun here at Warner and I must say I am really enjoying my choices for this semester. This semester I am taking ED 436 How Universities Work; ED 430 College Retention: Theory, Research, and Practice; and EDU 576 Contemporary Issues in Higher Education. I have only had a couple classes of each so far, but they are extremely engaging and interesting.
One of these courses, How Universities Work, has had interesting dialogues the first couple of classes. This course is set up so that each week we have a guest speaker come in and discuss how a university functions from their perspectives. The idea is that over the course, students will be able to see and hear from a variety of faculty and staff in different administrative roles and therefore be able to put together a complete picture of how a university functions.
But an interesting topic was brought up by the first presenter and again by the second presenter the following week. That topic was college rankings. Now unfortunately I am not going to name who the presenters were, but for the purpose of discussion let’s just say they are high ranking officials at the University of Rochester.
The reason I found this interesting was because the two presenters shared different views on this subject. Presenter One was very much in favor of college rankings. They discussed how many decisions that are made by university officials are made with the rankings in mind. The higher we are on that list, the more global capital we will have. The higher we are on that list, the more donations we can collect from university alumni. The higher we are the more students and faculty wants to attend and work and be a part of this university.
Presenter Two offered a different view. This presenter was very much against the rankings. They discussed this idea of false precision, an idea of getting the wrong idea about an institution based upon a number in front of its name. They also mentioned that if you ever looked at the list of endowments of universities and put that list next to the rankings you will see very similar results. Presenter Two noted how decisions within a university should be made for the benefit of the students not the benefit of moving up the rankings.
I was fascinated to see these different views and intrigued to understand how university officials work together on this topic when many of them will share differences in opinion.
Now I have always tended to lean more with Presenter Two’s views on this subject. But I would be lying if I said (especially as an alum of the University of Rochester) if we climbed into the top 20 of the rankings I wouldn’t be happy. But overall I think students who make college choices by simply looking at these numbers are not making the best decision that they could.
It’s like voting for a political candidate without hearing their views on the issues. If you are going to make the investment and go to college, do your research. Visit the school and get a feel for what they offer, try and see what the college or university has to offer you and how they are going to provide you with the best education and resources you need to succeed. Then make your decision.
As class was coming to an end, I was feeling very comfortable agreeing with Presenter Two that rankings just don’t matter. But then they left me with one final thought: “But if rankings matter to students, than rankings have to matter to us.”
Great. Just when I thought I had it all figured out.
It’s just a very interesting topic because so many people have different views about the subject. I’m curious to hear yours. Do rankings matter to you? Did they influence your college decision? Any thoughts you have feel free to share, and I will be sure to keep you updated as we proceed throughout the semester on other presenter’s views on the subject.