New College Rankings to measure Output not Input. - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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New College Rankings to measure Output not Input.

The Puffington Post
June 18, 2008 -- STUDENTS - and often parents, too - go deep into hock to finance a prestige college education.
Media hype adds to the pressure to go where the prestige is. The various annual rankings of colleges and universities, especially the rankings by US News & World Report, often play a key role.
Yet these rankings typically measure all sorts of inputs - but not outputs. The official academic accrediting agencies do the same thing. They measure how much money is spent on this or that, how many professors have tenure and other kinds of inputs.
What they don't measure is the output - what kind of education the students end up with. A new think tank in Washington is trying to shift the emphasis.
Richard Vedder, head of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, gives the US News rankings a grade of D. Measuring the inputs, he says, is "roughly equivalent to evaluating a chef based on the ingredients he or she uses."
His approach is to "review the meal" - that is, the outcome of the education itself.
The CCAP study uses several measures of output, including the proportion of a college's graduates who win awards like the Rhodes Scholarships or end up listed in "Who's Who in America," as well as the ratings that students give the professors who teach them.
Vedder admits that these are "imperfect" measures of a college's educational output, but at least they are measures of output instead of input.
Some academic institutions come out at or near the top by either input or output criteria - but there were some large changes in rankings as well.
Among national universities, the top three are the same - but in different order. They are Harvard, Yale and Princeton, according to Vedder's think tank, and Princeton, Harvard and Yale in the US News rankings.
Among the liberal arts colleges, however, there were some big changes. Washington & Lee moved up from 15th to 6th when ranked by Vedder's group and Barnard climbed from 30th to 8th.
Whitman College, ranked 37th by US News, jumped to 9th when evaluated on its output. Wabash College jumped from 52nd to 10th. West Point rose from 22nd to 7th.
Neither set of evauluations used one of my own favorite measures of output - the percentage of a college's graduates who go on to get PhDs.
Small colleges dominate the top 10 in sending their alumni on to get doctorates. Grinnell College sends a higher percentage of its graduates on to get PhDs than do either Harvard or Yale.
No given criterion tells the whole story. In fact, the whole idea of ranking colleges and universities is open to question.
What Vedder's study does is provide yet another reason for parents and students not to obsess over big-name schools or their rankings - or to go deep into hock over them.

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