Our Opinion: Colleges in NEPA could devise their own ranking system

October 3rd, 2016 12:58 pm

Would it be a good idea to …

… have colleges and universities devise their own rating system?

It is surely an odd notion, one that would have been moot a decade or two ago. Why should anyone trust institutions routinely competing with each other to come up with a system to help prospective students decide which is best?

But if you haven’t noticed, we have a plethora of college rankings. While the U.S. News and World Report “best” list might be the most famous, there is glut of rankings and ratings.

Most recently, the Wall Street Journal joined the rankings game, basing judgment on things like student outcomes, how well students are engaged, and learning environment. King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, incidentally, ranked 423rd nationwide, a fact it gladly touted in a media release.

Last year, The Economist launched a new ranking system, the venerable magazine’s first since it was founded in 1843.

But there’s an endless parade of rankings by many organization, big and small — including Best Party College, Best Green College, Best College Dorms, Best College Radio Stations, Best College Food, Best College Libraries, and Best College Traditions.

And it is inevitable, as these rankings roll out, that someone in local institutions voices concern regarding the methodology.

So while colleges ranking themselves seems at first counterintuitive, there is an argument to be made that if they collaborated in devising a system they felt most useful to all students and fairest to all institutions, it would be just that.

After all, they are homes to many of the best and brightest in our region and our country. They are staffed with people who make careers out of crunching numbers and analyzing results, figuring out the most useful way to use data.

Certainly it is the colleges and universities that should be most familiar with what students want, and what they need, to enjoy the college experience and benefit from it.

Maybe area colleges could launch a pilot program. Survey and consult current and prospective students as well as alumni. Sift through publicly available data, as most institutions probably already do in gauging the higher ed landscape. Share proprietary data individual schools have been collecting that they found useful.

And ask their brain trusts what sort of ratings system would be most accurate and most useful to prospective students scrutinizing the local institutions. Then make it.

Who knows? A top-shelf, effective rating system of area colleges by area colleges could lure more students to the region, as they discover how well the institutions worked together to help students make the best selection for their future.

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