Sunday, February 5, 2012

College Rankings and Privatization

One contributing factor that has made college into a commodity, no different from sports cars or perfume, has been the college rankings system -- which is explored in great detail by Malcolm Gladwell's "The Order of Things: What College Rankings Really Tell Us" in The New Yorker (February 14, 2012).  Focusing on the US News College Rankings, the article ends up deconstructing the entire ranking process, showing how arbitrary choices in what factors to value, and whether or not price gets included, can have dramatic impacts on where a college stands in the final tally.  What none of these rankings get at is "value," which Marty Nemko tries to address in "The Case for a College Report Card," which calls for schools to be judged on dollars and cents: how much do they charge and how much do their students make upon graduation?  In none of these articles does anyone pause to reflect on whether or not college should be just a monetary proposition, since we now live in the age where it is all dollars and cents.  That is the thinking that informs the lawsuits brought by law school graduates against their schools for inflating placement rates -- a practice that is bound to increase if Nemko has his way.  How college rankings are determined, and how Rutgers and other schools try to raise their rankings, would make for a very interesting topic.

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