Does size Matter? US News Article





Click here to go to the NEW College Discussion Forum

Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Does size Matter? US News Article
By Dstark (Dstark) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 03:50 pm: Edit

In the America's Best Colleges magazine, there is an article questioning whether size matters.
Two schools are looked at, Amherst and UMass.
Conclusions:
Professors who have taught at both schools say differences have more to do with size than substance.
Content of courses are similar.
Many times same text books are used.
Stonger students at Amherst as a percentage of the student body. There are gifted students at Umass.
21% of Amherst students planning to go off to graduate school.
18% of Umass students planning the same.
More access to professors and more discussion at Amherst.
Differences lessen during the four years.
According to a student who went to both schools, prefers Amherst, but says academically UMass gets a bad rap and isn't much different, it comes down to how you want to learn.
For most students, UMass is cheaper.

By Perry (Perry) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 04:02 pm: Edit

This supports my contention in a note on another thread that college rankings are highly deceptive and mainly measure the wealth factor among the various schools. The professors at UMass are likely every bit as good as at Amherst, which begs the question of what the distinguishing differences among the various schools really are. Offhand, I would think that students at Amherst get a better education by virtue of smaller classes, closer professor contact, and probably a higher workload (given that professors are less burdened by overcrowded classes).

By Marite (Marite) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 04:44 pm: Edit

To the factors cited by Perry, I would add less discrepancy in student quality in a small or medium-sized selective college (remember that UMass is a state school and Amherst one of the most selective LACs).

Profs do not teach to nominal, idealized students but to real ones. If a large proportion of the students are not following, chances are the prof will slow down, explain more, cover less materials, give shorter papers, etc... Class discussions are only as good as the students in the classes.

By Ndbisme5 (Ndbisme5) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 05:16 pm: Edit

I believe that the title of this thread was intentionally deceptive. Darn that bait and switch! (jk)

By Athlonmj (Athlonmj) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 05:33 pm: Edit

Agreed Ndbisme, reminded me of some spam emails ;)

By Tri_N (Tri_N) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 05:58 pm: Edit

21% of Amherst students planning to go off to graduate school.
18% of Umass students planning the same.


I will attend Amherst in the Fall of 2004. From what I've gathered, the percentage of students planning to go off to graduate school is a hell lot higher than 21%.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 06:07 pm: Edit

Tri_N those numbers are for students going to grad school directly from undergrad.
Amherst's total numbers are not mentioned in the article.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Sunday, August 22, 2004 - 06:34 pm: Edit

I believe that the title of this thread was intentionally deceptive. Darn that bait and switch! (jk)

I've always felt size matters. In the size of the school, in class size, and in other ways too!

By Originaloog (Originaloog) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 10:55 am: Edit

My EXPERIENCE confirms the information in the article. As a frosh at OSU(big eh?) I had classes in calculus, physics and chemistry among others. I had two friends who were frosh engineering majors that year too. We used the same calc book(Fisher and Zieber) and the same physics book(the famous Halliday and Resnick) and covered the same amount of material that year. Chem was the interesting class. The Cornell frosh used the Sienko and Plane text. At OSU we were assigned the much thorougher test by Mahan and assigned the Sienko and Plane book as an optional supplemental text. Again about the same amount of material was covered.

I followed my friends to Cornell for grad school and my observations while there were the same. The level and quality of the education was very similar. I know that I was as well prepared as my peers to tackle the graduate level course work and found the workload very similar to my OSU undergrad experience.

The only discernable difference that I observed was the quality of the students. The average students at Cornell were noticably better and there was an even bigger difference in the quality of the last quartile students. However, the best students were the much the same. It seened that the grade distributions reasonably reflected these differences: far fewer A's and many more C's at OSU.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:03 am: Edit

>>The only discernable difference that I observed was the quality of the students. The average students at Cornell were noticably better and there was an even bigger difference in the quality of the last quartile students. However, the best students were the much the same. It seened that the grade distributions reasonably reflected these differences: far fewer A's and many more C's at OSU.>>

This supports the experience of an acquaintance who has taught at two state universities and at Harvard. While the best students at the two state universities were as good as the best students she has had at Harvard, the quality of students at the two state universities dropped considerably thereafter. There was less of a spread among the Harvard students, meaning that the average students were noticeably better than the average students at the two state universities. That, however, is not a function of size per se, but of the fact that state universities are less able to pick and choose whom they admit than a private and highly selective university.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:11 am: Edit

Marite, most people on this board would think because state schools have students with a wider range of abilities, they aren't as good.
The funny thing is, as originaloog states, you can't tell the difference at graduate schools between top students who went to private or public schools.
I guess the education at state schools didn't ruin the abilities of top students.
I guess the education at OSU didn't ruin originaloog.
And maybe, the education at state schools helps lower ability students too.

By Songman (Songman) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:29 am: Edit

To me whichever school the student will thrive in and learn is the appropriate college. Yes My S is going to UMASS/Amherst, but we chose the school for other reasons. Besides the chance that he would have been accepted to Amherst would have been slim to none. As I have said on other posts it really depends on the motivation of the student and the chosen career. I know in my field Amherst College opens doors! I would bet more than UMASS/Amherst does. However a highly motivated student from UMASS/Amherst can do as well as the Amherst student in the final analysis. So it comes down to quality of education,skills of professors,curriculum etc. This is where I have a problem reconciling private versus public education. Why? I believe that in the end the funding of a school is key. And while budgets have been cut in the state of MASS,I reason that Amherst college will never be able to raise enough funds to compete with a goverment(the state of MA). Namely UMASS gets their funding from all the taxpayers,alumni etc. And we all know government always seems to have money to burn. Heck I just received my car registration renewal and three ads for profit making companies (Mastercard, Ford cars, and a label company popped out--what nerve! What does the state do with the ad revenues and why are they advertising???- excuse me please, my rant for today ! )

MARITE said:That, however, is not a function of size per se, but of the fact that state universities are less able to pick and choose whom they admit than a private and highly selective university.

I agree and because our S attended a private high school he/we felt that it was time for a little diversity in his education. We are not delusional though the quality of student gap (which Marite cited) inherently has to be wider at UMASS/Amherst.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:30 am: Edit

Dstark:

Grad schools are not the best way to judge undergraduate quality or experience. Grad schools admit the best and most committed students no matter where they studied. So it goes without saying that the graduate students who come from state universities are every bit as good as the graduate students who come from private, highly selective ones. Even at a private university there is a qualitative difference in the classroom performance of a senior who is not intending to go on with graduate studies in that field and a first-year graduate student who is in that field. The two may be the same age, but their level of preparation and their attitude in the course are quite dissimilar. If a graduate admission committee has done its work well, there should be no discrepancy among the first-year students, no matter where they went to college.

As I said, student quality is not truly a function of size but of admission policies. Except for the CA system with its different tiers, most state universities would find it politically difficult to turn away instate applicants with SATs in the 1300, for example. Private universities would have no such trouble.

Whereas one can find stellar students anywhere, size matters to the student experience. Some students will find a college of 1600 way too small; some will find a university with 16,000 way too big. Personally, I find that the big advantage of the East Coast LACs and universities is the range of sizes. A Berkeley prof encouraged my S to consider Berkeley (not a cheap option for non-residents). But my S blanched at the size of the student body. I expect that he will give Berkeley serious consideration for grad school.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:33 am: Edit

Looking at two schools doesn't give me the information I need to make a good evaluation. A sampling of the top 50 publics and top 50 small to mid-size university - which will most likely be privates - would give me the information I need. It sounds like a fluff article designed to get kids to consider both. But what do I know?!?

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:35 am: Edit

>>And maybe, the education at state schools helps lower ability students too.>>

Dstark:

No question about it! So do some private colleges. Not all fall into the highly selective category. It's not mediocre state university vs. HYP, although sometimes, the discussion seems to be framed that way.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:38 am: Edit

Marite, He should look at Berkeley at some point.
Your comment about SAT scores...
Do you think SAT scores reflect a student's abilities?
Do you think a 1500 scorer has more abilities than a 1300 scorer?
Can a 1300 scorer catch up with a 1500 scorer?
Does it matter if a 1500 scorer received that score from one test or multiple tests?
Does it matter how many times you take the test?
Berkeley has found that higher scorers of the SAT graduate at a teeny tiny bit better rate than lower scorers at its school. Not materially different.
Berkeley has also found the SAT measures income and parent backgrounds better than anything else.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 12:02 pm: Edit

I use SAT scores here as shorthand to discuss student preparation. In the more selective schools, adcoms read student applications that go beyond GPAs and SAT scores: teachers' recs, essays, etc... At large universities that have to deal with a larger volume of applications, recs are not used, nor, I believe, are essays. Some time ago, the NYT ran a series of articles that compared the admission process at Wesleyan and at UCSD (that was before The Gatekeepers was published). UCSD was definitely strictly by the numbers. I think this is too bad.

I recently saw a rec form (MIT's?) that asked the teacher to evaluate whether a student had achieved thanks to hard work or brilliance. The inference I drew was that a student who had achieved an A through hard work had reached his/her ceiling. One who had achieved the A through brilliance was the more desirable candidate. A school that admits by the numbers and does not require recs will not be able to draw this distinction.

SATs do correlate closely with parental income, but so does student preparation to large degree. Student preparation plays a role in success in college. Both my income and my level of education allow me to stuff my house with books on subjects of interest to each of us; not to blanch at the cost of a calculator or a new computer. Said computer allows my S to do research in a way that some of his schoolmates cannot. These discrepancies do add up. With some support, a less-well prepared student can definitely catch up with one who has been better prepared by parents and high school.

The NYT today, by the way, has an article about the Crimson Academy, a new Harvard program designed to prepare students from lower income families for college over the course of three summers. The program seems to be similar to one launched earlier by Princeton. Programs like that reach too few students, but I think they are what it takes to identify promising students from lower income backgrounds, make them competitive for college admission and prepare them for success once admitted.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 12:10 pm: Edit

Marite, nice post.
Brilliance vs hard work.
Brilliance without hard work loses in the end.
I want to read that NYT article.
I saved the Boston Globe article about what to bring to college.
Thanks for that link.
Edit: Read the article about the Crimson Academy...great Program.


Report an offensive message on this page    E-mail this page to a friend
Posting is currently disabled in this topic. Contact your discussion moderator for more information.

Administrator's Control Panel -- Board Moderators Only
Administer Page