|By amd on Thursday, December 20, 2001 - 01:26 pm: Edit|
US News's terms like 'Second Tier', 'Third Tier', etc., have always bothered me. They have unintended consequences. (A group once was trying to raise funds to climb the mountain K2, the second highest mountain in the world - it is about 1000 feet shorter than Everest. They had problems with the perception that what they were trying to do was, somehow, only second best. They started calling it the hardest mountain in the world, to get around this problem.)
Why doesn't US News try someting like this?
The Top 50
The Next Fifty (or 50 to 100)
100 to 150
150 to 200 etc.
150/3500 is not bad at all (and surely sounds better than Third Tier).
|By Dadster on Thursday, December 20, 2001 - 08:27 pm: Edit|
Interesting idea, amd. To make these grades sound even more positive, how about "Top 1%", "Top 3%", and "Top 5%"?
|By amd on Thursday, December 20, 2001 - 10:17 pm: Edit|
'How about "Top 1%", "Top 3%", and "Top 5%"?'
I like this suggestion - this represents reality accurately. The US News can easily calculate the total number of colleges it considered in each category - National Doctoral Universities, SLACs, etc - and show lists like Top 1%, etc for each category.
|By amd on Thursday, December 20, 2001 - 10:37 pm: Edit|
I sent US News a Letter to the Editor, which contains the following text:
As I recently posted in the College Confidential site (http://www.collegeconfidential.com/discus/):
US News' terms like 'Second Tier', 'Third Tier', etc., have always bothered me. They have unintended consequences. (A group once was trying to raise funds to climb the mountain K2, the second highest mountain in the world - it is about 1000 feet shorter than Everest. They had problems with the perception that what they were trying to do was, somehow, only second best. They started calling it the hardest mountain in the world, to get around this problem.)
Why doesn't US News try someting like this?
The Top 50
The Next Fifty (or 50 to 100)
100 to 150
150 to 200 etc.
150/3500 is not bad at all (and surely sounds better than Third Tier).
I got the following suggestion from another poster at this site:
Interesting idea. To make these grades sound even more positive, how about "Top 1%", "Top 3%", and "Top 5%"?
What does US News think of this idea?
A Midwestern Dad
|By California Mom (Calmom) on Thursday, December 20, 2001 - 11:39 pm: Edit|
I think the problem is with the whole idea of ranking. It makes sense to me to have numerous rankings based on total objective criteria. For example, if I want to find out which college has the highest 4-year-graduation rate, or lowest student-faculty ratio, one could obviously compile a list in rank order.
But US News purports to rank based on quality of the instution, on a combination of objective and subjective measures, some of which are self-enhancing. That is, part of the ranking score is based on a poll of college administrators as to which colleges have the best "reputations" - of course, the previous year's US News results will directly effect "reputation".
Other factors are things that really have nothing to do with the quality of the instution, or which have only an indirect or speculative influence. For example, looking at the overall financial resources of an institution really doesn't tell much, because colleges spend their money in different ways.
I found an article that also shows that the US News rankings appear to directly affect the rate of admissions of colleges from year to year:
Basically, if a college falls in the rankings, the following year its acceptance rate increases, the yield goes down, and the average SAT scores decline. (Which in turn would tend to bring the college down further in the rankings).
The irony is that although these things are a measure of the popularity of a school, they don't measure the quality of academics or program. The more specialized, unusual, or innovative a college's program is, the less likely it is to do well in US New rankings.
Factors extraneous to the quality of academics will tend to discourage some students from applying or attending, keeping ranking low, but have nothing to do with the quality of the academics. For example, there are a number of fine liberal arts colleges located in rural areas of the midwest, but weather and geography deters many students from applying.
US News makes no attempts to measure or report objectively on a number of factors that might indicate quality of a college. For example, they don't look student satisfaction or the percentage of students who go on to graduate study.
Basically, I think it's ridiculous to think that there can be a "top" of anything based on that sort of random and arbitrary conglomeration of objective and subjective data.
|By Dadster on Friday, December 21, 2001 - 07:37 am: Edit|
Your are right, Calmom, but rankings sell magazines! Even if the US News rankings make less sense than BCS football rankings, people hunger to know who is #1, who made the top 20, who surged, who tanked (as if colleges change that dramatically from year to year!), etc.
Thanks for the interesting link - it confirms the feedback loop that exists with rankings. Once a school starts to move up or down, it tends to develop momentum fed by the published rankings themselves.
I try to look at the U.S. News research in a more positive light. They compile a lot of really useful data that doesn't really exist in such a convenient form anywhere else. The rankings are the equivalent of annoying TV commercials - something that you put up with to get the content you want. If they didn't sell a ton of magazines, the wouldn't be able to collect and publish all the rest of the data. It's too bad that so many people take the rankings at face value, though.
|By Dadster on Monday, January 07, 2002 - 06:12 pm: Edit|
Hey, amd, did you ever get a reply from US News on your suggestions for improving their rankings?
|By amd on Monday, January 07, 2002 - 09:33 pm: Edit|
(Feeling rather good since I finished submitting FAFSA online and got it processed.)
|By David Hawsey on Friday, January 11, 2002 - 03:23 pm: Edit|
This discussion was nice to read through. A little-known fact from an "insider": The rankings of a college, especially "Tier I", does not indicate whether or not their enrollment is stable, dropping, rising, etc. I have access to the statistics of many of these schools through professional associations, state and national-level reporting agencies, e-mail lists I'm on, and discussions with these schools themselves. etc. While I am unable to reveal which schools, nor the source of my information (it would be highly unethical)I can guarantee you that a number of the colleges in "Tier I" have had a rocky road in the last 10 years in terms of falling short of their freshman class, or had to overspend their financial aid budget to get the class (discounted higher than desired), or any other number of challenges.
Again, as Dave Berry and I state in our book "America's Elite Colleges", you don't know what's going on behind the scenes. You only know what they tell you, or what your preconceived impression of a college is.
Several years ago, while serving a Tier III college (now at the bottom of Tier II) in Pennsylvania, I battled successfully for students against several East Coast "Tier I" colleges whose outright "worth" in relation to their bottom-line price was being seriously challenged by parents, whose hard-earned savings wasn't about to be invested in some intangible perception of quality, without a fair amount of justification. Parents and students wonder what SPECIFICALLY they get for the extra money they spend at a college with higher perceived value. It's hard for any of us to tell you specifically, and prove it's "worth it", but there are factors to look for. You won't find those factors in surveys and magazines. You and I know that, but it sure feels and seems easier to go with the "pop culture" of a magazine's opinion. Since when do you allow a magazine editor to tell you what's right for your son or daughter, after 18 years of careful nurturing?
In terms of US News, don't look at the acceptance rate -- look at the YIELD on accepts. And look over time, going back 5 - 10 years (get old Peterson's guides or other college guide and record what you find for yield on accepts). So what if a college brags about turning away thousands of applicants? Big deal.
How many that are accepted actually end up there? Less than you think! Why? The primary reason is the lack of financial aid, or a final bill that, in the family's mind, does not match up with the value perceived.
A number of the Top Tier colleges have an inverse performance against the growing percentage accepted/denied, their ranking in the surveys, and the realities of running a multi-million dollar "business" of educating your sons and daughters.
Time after time, we urge you to "shop" for a college by FIT and culture, not by the perception of prestige. Presitige is a false prophet at the individual level. STudents who attended any college, from the Ivies on down, are flipping burgers and mumbling the same thing: "Where's the prestige when I need it?!"
Perhaps the greatest measure of a college's success is the loyalty that alumni feel, the respect and belief in the institution that endures long after graduation. US News includes that measure. Make sure your top choice, if even affordable, has the support of their alumni -- and in excess of 40% of their graduates.
|By California Mom (Calmom) on Friday, January 11, 2002 - 03:51 pm: Edit|
The US News alumni support measure is one of the easier ones to manipulate. Here's what the colleges are doing - they are putting a big effort into contacting alumni and asking for small donations, so that the overall percentage of donors goes up.
I am glad that they are doing this, because at my son's school, they are paying work-study students $7/hour to make the phone calls soliciting donations, and this is easy money for my son.
But honestly, those numbers don't mean anything. Perhaps they once did, but now that they are worth brownie points with US News, it only is one more reflection of how well the college is doing marketing and outreach geared to get the best numbers.
|By amd on Friday, January 11, 2002 - 06:29 pm: Edit|
Thanks for the post. Come April 2002, I would like to e-mail you and ask you how you would choose among our available options. Let me start the question here itself.
Are the U of Chicago, Carleton, and Rice worth the full price and preferable to Grinnell and Kalamazoo at half price? [Price is the total cost of attendance (COA)] How do each of these comapre with Indian U Honors college with some aid?
Also, how do you feel about Pope's book? I used to be excited by it - at other times I am bothered by the hype. [I had a similar reaction during my younger - and more foolish - days to Dave Carnegie's 'How to Win Friends and Influence People'.]
I try not to get hung up on prestige but the thought that my kid is likely to be influenced by a better class of professors and fellow-students at U of Chicago, Rice, Carleton, and Grinnell, keeps going through my mind. I prefer an e-mail reply but will settle for a reply on this board.
If colleges are manipulating this stat to look better in USNews reports, that is rather disgusting.
|By amd on Friday, January 11, 2002 - 06:42 pm: Edit|
Let me clarify my previous post. I am assuming a hypothetical candidate [a friend of my kid ] who has to pay
Full COA at U of Chicago, Carleton, Rice (The COA at Rice is about $10000/year cheaper)
Half COA at Grinnell and Kalamazoo (the rest being merit aid)
Less than Full COA at Indiana (The COA itself is about $12000/year.)
By the way, the two replies today in this thread cheered me up.
|By amd on Friday, January 11, 2002 - 07:40 pm: Edit|
Some more clarification. My kid's friend  at this time is thinking of majoring in English/Philosophy and going on to grad school after college. He likes learning for the sake of learning and likes to write. He also likes math and physics.
|By burningman on Saturday, January 12, 2002 - 10:05 am: Edit|
Hi, amd. You are asking a question that is difficult to answer. The schools on the list are quite different from each other, and a lot will depend on the environment that is best for your kid's friend. Is Chicago "worth" $10K more a year than Rice? In purely economic terms, probably not. But if Chicago had the right environment (and the "learning for the sake of learning" part suggests it might), or if the kid wanted to take advantage of the Oriental Institute there, etc., it COULD be worth a premium. I don't think that in most cases one can answer a general question is College A worth $___ more than College B. Heck, even when you know the student, a question like that can be pretty hard to answer. And even a school that most would consider to be overrated and overpriced (I wouldn't say that any on your list fall into that category) might be the perfect fit for a particular student.
I would think that Indiana would be the "best buy" on the list, but it is quite different from all the other choices. It is the only one to offer a big sports program, it's population is bigger, and its department/course selection are likely to be larger.
Good luck, these decisions are difficult, but the schools on the list are great choices!
|By amd on Saturday, January 12, 2002 - 11:28 am: Edit|
Thanks for your reply, burningman. (We have nothing much but wait till April - anxiety keeps building up.) The real saving grace perhaps is that any one of the colleges (on our list) will work.
I/we perhaps have not given much effort to finding the best fit among the six. There is no interest in a specific program/offering/institute (such as the Oriental Institute) other than a general desire for humanities/liberal arts/well rounded education. Also, I expect some flexibility from the kid. If he is ideally suited for Chicago (say), wouldn't Rice/Grinnell/Carleton/Kalamazoo work just as well in terms of academics? (I realize that there are huge differences in factors like rural/urban and hot/cold weather among these five. I expect the kid to rule out some after final visits in April and some adaptability afterwords.)
There are other factors too - like closeness to home, number of kids from his school attending the chosen college, and the GPA needed to keep up scholarships. For Grinnell, the GPA needed to keep up scholarships is only 2.75, which I think is a big plus because a kid can truly experiment by taking really difficult courses and courses way out of the comfort zone. (I think that this is important to the kid I have in mind, who has only been excited by English/humanities at his high school, because of the type of faculty they have).
|By Dave Berry on Tuesday, January 15, 2002 - 01:59 pm: Edit|
I found this letter from a former Stanford president to the editor of U.S. News regarding the rankings sham. It contains some excellent suggestions and objective criticisms. It's quite eloquent, actually.
|By Theparents (Theparents) on Tuesday, January 15, 2002 - 06:40 pm: Edit|
to amd- at least one other family will be struggling with some of the same issues and schools in april 02! same basic questions- different state u. (already accepted) similar lacs. same variables. Is the larger price tag worth it?? the final sticker price will probably determine the answer and also the student's viewpoint on the variables. hope everything will become clearer as april approaches. we hope to do some more meaningful research as the months go by.
|By Dadster on Wednesday, January 16, 2002 - 05:22 pm: Edit|
These decisions are really difficult. When is a college worth an extra $10K per year, and when isn't it? If you knew exactly how the kid would do at each one, it would be easy. In reality, though, it's pretty hard to predict how any one option will turn out.
On the plus side, I saw a statistic that 75% of college freshmen are happy with their choice, so I guess the odds favor a successful outcome...
|By amd on Friday, January 18, 2002 - 06:35 pm: Edit|
If a variable can be measured only upto zero decimal place accuracy (i.e., only upto to the ones), this fact should be kept in mind during computations using that variable. If the value is say 4, when it is deivided by 3, we get 1.3333...
This does not mean that suddenly we have improved the measurement precision. To rank different measurements of this type on the basis of differences is the decimal places (i.e., 1.33334 > 1.33331 etc.) and divide them into tiers, is patently, silly. This is the main point that Casper makes. 'Could you not do away with rank ordering and overall scores, thus admitting that the method is not nearly that precise and that the difference between #1 and #2 - indeed, between #1 and #10 - may be statistically insignificant?' I agree with him.
However, I was disappointed in his argument about another point. 'Caltech could easily meet the "predicted" graduation rate of 99% by offering a cream-puff curriculum and automatic A's. Would that be adding value?'. No, not at all. However, demanding and enforcing rigor is only a part of the situation. If Caltech actively contributes to students actually thriving in a rigorous situation by superior teaching (as opposed to sink or swim technique), now, that would indeed be adding value. He does nor seem to even entertain this possibility.
|By GFI on Friday, January 18, 2002 - 07:22 pm: Edit|
Interesting point about Caltech, amd. I guess there are two ways of looking at it. I think a "sink or swim" technique adds value to the diploma, although not necessarily to the admitted applicant. As an employer, I'd be happy to hire grads of a college that flunked out two-thirds of the entering freshmen. As a parent or student, though, I'd be kind of leery of that environment.
|By California Mom (Calmom) on Friday, January 18, 2002 - 07:38 pm: Edit|
AMD, I agree with you that for me, the level of support a college gives it's students is vitally important -- I certainly don't want to send my kids off into a sink-or-swim pressure cooker environment -- but I think the point is that US News really cannot objectify this sort of factor, especially by coming up with some sort of arbitrary comparison of "expected" graduation numbers with "actual" graduation numbers.
To use Cal Tech as an example: because the students come in with such high SATs overall, there is an overall inflated expectation as to what kids who score that much "ought" to do in 4 years. But reality is that SAT scores don't predict graduation rates, and never were intended to do so -- all they ever purportedly did was predict first year grades. Further, we don't know why certain students don't finish at Cal Tech. Since Cal Tech has a specialized focus, it is likely that a certain percentage are simply students who have changed focus and have decided to major in a non-technical field -- since Cal Tech doesn't offer that opportunity, they probably transfer to other colleges with a broader range of majors, and may very well graduate on schedule, but simply get their degrees somewhere else.
Numbers in a chart or a database will never tell the whole story. And when we try to compare stats from colleges and universities that may be very different in their focus, goals, and atmosphere, we often are comparing apples to oranges.
|By amd on Friday, January 18, 2002 - 08:23 pm: Edit|
Calmom, I agree with you that US News' expected graduation rates (based on incoming SAT scores)is quite bogus.
My whole point was that Casper only defended Caltech's curriculum, while saying nothing about the teaching value added. (He was only setting up and destroying a straw man, namely a cream-puff curriculum. It is either the cream-puff stuff or sink-or-swim, he couldn't envision other possibilities.)
As you have said, as parents, we look for places that help our children grow, leading them by the hand if need be. [The other approach is what I think of as the 'moneylender approach'. The professor walks into the class and announces that the students owe him 55 pages in a certain textbook.
|By Dadster on Monday, January 21, 2002 - 08:38 am: Edit|
Unfortunately, it's hard to tell in advance what the profs at a school will be like. Sitting in on a class during a visit probably won't tell much. That's where discussion forums and "insiders guides" come into play. The retention rate statistic may be one indication, but there are a lot of other factors involved. A school that has very loose admissions might have a lower retention rate than one that rejects more applicants. Certainly, one reason why the Ivies have such high retention is the caliber of the student they admit. No doubt a feeling of "I actually got in - I'd better not blow this opportunity comes into play. No doubt the cost has a big effect on 4 year graduation rates, too. At low cost state schools, changing majors and extending one's stay by a year or two or three is pretty common; not so at $35K per year.
Even so, I like seeing the retention rate stat - I don't know if it should factor into the rankings, but it provides some useful consumer info.
|By California Mom (Calmom) on Monday, January 21, 2002 - 05:31 pm: Edit|
I also am interested in seeing the retention rate- my complaint was with the way US News compares it with an "expected" rate and then uses that to support a conclusion about the quality of the school.
|By Anon Boston Mom on Tuesday, January 22, 2002 - 03:20 pm: Edit|
I would like to see a ranking of all students, as their parents see them. Then, a ranking of all high schools (over 80,000 of them in the USA). Then, a correlation between what parents think about their kids, what high schools say about them, and what colleges accept them for what reasons.
Then, I'd like to follow these kids to see if their lives, careers and families, and all the impact they have on the world or even their own neighborhoods, are in any way related to the college they went to, the high school they attended, or the family they were brought up in.
Of course, this is impossible. And worthless. Here's another way:
One kid at a time. The right school for the right student. And for the right reasons. These never have, and never will be, and God help us all better not be something that magazine surveys feel they can posture a professional opinion about.
Do yourselves a favor. Try not reading US News for two straight years. Your stress level will go down tremendously. Love your kids. Ignore the media's influence. Visit schools and meet their professors and their alumni. (AMD - They do count, regardless of what you think. Support does equate with belief in value, no matter if it was $1 or $1 million given each year).
Teach them to ignore prestige and learn to seek and uphld value in the lives of others.
Ivy wilts quickly when it gets too much "light". Ever notice that?
|By R Storm (Anonrs) on Tuesday, January 22, 2002 - 11:45 pm: Edit|
Jeff Adams, Senior Producer of The Princeton Review has a new thread up on both the parent and student boards at review.com , "Tell the TPR: What Do You Most Want to Know About Colleges?" Sounds like TPR is working on parameters for a new guide. So, if any one has suggestions -- hop on over and make them known.
BTW, I just posted this same message on the "College Admissions - Related Books" thread in the *College Admissions* main section.
|By Dadster on Friday, January 25, 2002 - 12:54 pm: Edit|
Maybe they are tired of getting hammered on their own boards, and this effort is a placebo to make people think they care.
|By George Meany on Friday, January 25, 2002 - 02:15 pm: Edit|
There's only one thing they care about, Dadster: your money in their pocket.
|By R Storm (Anonrs) on Friday, January 25, 2002 - 11:46 pm: Edit|
I'm not sure if the feedback PR is collecting is for a new book edition or web content. Garnering quite a few suggestions, though.
|By lcstm on Sunday, January 27, 2002 - 11:03 pm: Edit|
I would like to know if there is anywhere that will tell you what a school is really like. The write ups always make them sound terrific. I am looking at Mount St Mary in Maryland, College of Notre Dame in California and Chico State but since they are not the top school information is hard to find any information would be helpful
|By California Mom (Calmom) on Sunday, January 27, 2002 - 11:31 pm: Edit|
Try http://epinions.com. I just checked, and there were 6 reviews of Chico State - I didn't check on the others.
You have to keep an open mind and realize that the reviews are only the opinions expressed by the people posting them, but I really find most of the epinions reviews far more informative and candid than the typical college guide. If there is a problem with a campus, you are much more likely to find it out on epinions or a similar site than in the guidebooks.
|By California Mom (Calmom) on Tuesday, January 29, 2002 - 04:04 am: Edit|
I just found an extraordinary site with in-depth reviews by students of many colleges. These aren't just superficial reviews - they are deep, personal essays detailing the full college experience of the contributors.
The site is http://www.broaderminds.com/ - I stumbled across it looking for something else. If you want something that gives you student insight and opinions, this is about the best I've seen on the web.
One reason that these reviews are so great is that they require the student reviewers to write at least 600 words, answering at least 3 of 7 questions - so basically, they really encourage their reviewers to supply a lot of detail.
|By Dave Berry on Tuesday, January 29, 2002 - 10:47 am: Edit|
Thank you for sharing that site info, Calmom. I bookmarked it as a resource. It looks pretty interesting. How did you find it? From a search result?
There doesn't seem to be an intuitive link between "college" and "broaderminds," though. I wonder how they expect people to remember their site name.
|By California Mom (Calmom) on Tuesday, January 29, 2002 - 02:37 pm: Edit|
As I said, I was doing a search for something else entirely -- I don't even remember what - and I ran across it. But I don't think the word "college" was anywhere in my search. All I can say is that the internet sometimes works that way.
|By R Storm (Anonrs) on Tuesday, January 29, 2002 - 03:18 pm: Edit|
Calmom, thanks for the new resource. I bookmarked the site also -- as Dave noted, I'd probably never be able to find it again on my own. I'm looking forward to broaderminds "broadening" the actual number of colleges with posted impressions.
|By lcstm on Wednesday, January 30, 2002 - 12:57 am: Edit|
thanks for the web site, it was what I was looking for. Now,if I can find one with the colleges that I am looking at
|By top dc cat on Thursday, July 04, 2002 - 05:39 pm: Edit|
The idea of "Ranking" a college or University is simplistic and insulting.
Education needs are so highly individual they cannot be put into a table for mass consumption.
Unless you want to sell something, which US News and World Report needs to do -- sell copy, that is.
It is exactly that kind of thing that has led to things like grade inflation to keep the customers...uhhhh students... happy and coming back for more.
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