Wednesday, June 20, 2007

NAICU and the US News Rankings

By Richard Vedder

During the meetings of the Spellings Commission, the group who most consistently opposed many of the proposed reforms was the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), led by David Warren. In the recent revolt against the US News & World Report rankings, the battle again is being waged by NAICU member independent colleges.

The word is that NAICU is going to develop its own consumer friendly indicator of what is going on in the liberal arts colleges it represents, responding to the Spellings Commission. Other things equal, that is good. However, given to its resistance to change as personified by David Warren's constant attacks on the Commission's findings, I am frankly wondering if some of these schools are trying to kill the one form of information most parents read, and replace it was a bunch of information that provides less guidance to parents because it does not explicitly separate the excellent from the good, the fair from the poor.

Colleges increasingly find it hard to evaluate their students, preferring to give most students high grades. They complain when others evaluate them. Yet life is a series of evaluations, rankings, grades. Employers are consistently evaluating their employees, for example. As colleges get rich and complacent and their staff gets job security with little accountability, they shrink away from doing one of life's necessities -- identifying excellence and mediocrity. This is all the more reasons why we need to have an independently derived rankings system that is more outcomes rather than input based. Until then, I am a supporter of the US News rankings, for all the undesired effects they have on college spending --at least they are trying to serve consumers wanting the very best in higher educational services possible for their budgets and academic potential. But what is really needed is a better "bottom line" for higher education.

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