Monday, February 21, 2011

Penn State and College Rankings

The Feb. 14th and 21st issue of the New Yorker has an article on college rankings, written by Malcolm Gladwell. "The order of things: What college rankings really tell us," is not available freely online (an abstract is) but it is worth the trouble to track down in print.

Gladwell takes on the college rankings you see printed up each year. Penn State is one of the schools he discusses in depth. The gist of his argument is that the criteria used and how it is weighed dramatically affects the way the colleges are ranked. That makes sense when you hear it but we seldom look at what criteria are used in things like college rankings. For instance, price is often not taken into account but that is a factor most students and their parents weigh heavily. Penn State has a greater than expected graduation rate when demographic data is taken into account, higher than many Ivy League schools but that also is often not considered in college rankings.

Relying on ranking lists is quick and easy but perhaps not very effective when choosing a college. However, if you do review the rankings, please also review the criteria used. Gladwell's article is very informative and it points out some real positives about Penn State, even it if doesn't get a high ranking on the college ranking lists.

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