Harvard Fails in These University Rankings


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Last week, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona criticized college ranking systems that valued high selectivity in admissions, telling a summit on excellence and equity in Higher Education :

[M]every institution spends a tremendous amount of time and money researching rankings they deem prestigious, but in truth, “do little more than ‘Xerox privilege’, as one HBCU president put it.

There’s a whole science behind climbing the rankings. It goes like this: Competing for the better-off students by enticing them with generous aid, because the best-prepared students have the best SAT scores and graduate on time; curry favor with your peers at other elite schools with expensive dinners and lavish events, as their opinions carry weight in the polls; and invest in the most amazing campus experiences money can buy, because the more graduates who become donors, the more points you score!

Too often, our best-resourced schools seek out rankings that mean little about metrics that really matter: college completion, economic mobility, closing the gaps in access to opportunity for ALL Americans. This ranking system is a joke!

He didn’t mention the annual US News & World Report university rankings, but he didn’t have to; these famous rankings repeatedly reward Ivy League-plus schools with top rankings through a methodology that rewards significant endowments and resources that most schools lack.

In 2018, US News changed the way it calculates its rankings, removing admission rate data — which has focused attention on the most selective schools — and emphasizing low-income students. But the top results haven’t changed much; Princeton University has held the top spot in the national university rankings for nearly a dozen years.

US News has changed the way it ranks colleges. It’s still ridiculous.

Other organizations have come up with different ways to rank colleges, and this article explains how Third Way, a Washington-based think tank, does it: by defining the value of a college based on the proportion of students with low income he registers and the economic situation. benefit it brings them.

This piece was written by Third Way Senior Researcher Michael Itzkowitz. He also served as director of the Department of Education’s College Scorecard during the Obama administration.

These are statements you don’t hear often: Harvard is a fourth-tier institution. In fact, it ranks 847th out of 1,320 institutions granting bachelor’s degrees in the United States.

But if you measure colleges in terms of the economic mobility they actually offer—rather than exclusivity and test scores—they’re great.

I’ve been studying the value of colleges for years, and some of my research — along with the popularity of college rankings — has led me to ask some basic questions about how we rate colleges.

Do college rankings really reflect the purpose of our higher education system? Or are they just a tool to generate the same list of well-funded, selective schools year after year?

I guess you can guess the conclusion I came to. But if the goal of higher education is to uplift the next generation and leave them better off – rather than simply reproducing the class divides that already exist – how can we measure this effectively?

In 2020, Third Way and I introduced a concept known as Price-to-Earnings Premium, which looks at the cost students actually pay out of pocket versus the income “boost” they get from attending a specific establishment. This allows prospective students to estimate how long it will take to recoup the cost of earning a degree. Then I looked at this bonus specifically for low income students.

As I crunched the numbers, I sat in excitement waiting for the results to come in. But the data surprised me. The schools that popped up at the top? Duke, Stanford, William & Mary, Harvard and Yale Universities. Institutions where low-income students got the best return on investment essentially mimicked the annual US News & World Report ranking.

But one thing about all of these schools at the top of the list stood out: each of them enrolls less than one in five students from low- or moderate-income backgrounds. If you’re one of the lucky few to gain admission, you’ll likely get a great return on your investment. However, most people’s chances of being admitted are extremely limited. And if you’re accepted, chances are you’ll be successful no matter where you enroll.

It wasn’t what I was looking for, but it led me to create a new way of evaluating institutions, known as the Economic Mobility Index. Rather than prioritizing selectivity and test scores—as traditional college rankings do—the EMI defines the value a college provides based on the proportion of low-income students it enrolls. , in addition to the economic benefits they receive.

Integrating these two outcomes provides a better indication of which colleges are actually delivering on the promise of the higher education system as a whole – schools that open the door to a degree and lift students up the socio-economic ladder. economic.

Use of race in college admissions protected by the First Amendment, groups say

The result? Schools that top America’s news list — Princeton, Harvard, and Yale universities, for example — fall to No. 426, No. 847, and No. 495, respectively, in terms of the economic mobility they offer.

Instead, schools like California State University System, Texas A&M University, and City University of New York rise to the top. In fact, the top 10 schools are all Hispanic-serving institutions. And historically, black colleges and universities — which are chronically underfunded and often nowhere to be found in popular news rankings — earn seven spots in the top 100 schools.

These schools have held the promise of higher education for years. But most of the media and college ranking publications give them no recognition.

It is time for that to change. Instead of rewarding schools based on the size of their endowments, historical prestige, and test scores of enrolling students, the media should prioritize institutions that provide opportunities and leave most students better off. better off than where they started.

Schools like Harvard may not like that. But if the goal of higher education is to move students up the socio-economic ladder, Harvard is only a fourth-tier institution.

You can see more rankings here.

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