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Remember the efforts -- that straddle the line between "illegal, unethical and really interesting" -- by Clemson University to get into the top 20 in the US News rankings? There are two follow-ups: the first, predictably enough, is this official response from Clemson; but the second reports this very interesting finding:
But [Clemson University's] president, James F. Barker, took a very different approach in his peer assessments [that he filled out for US News]. Barker, too, rated his institution as "strong" [worth 4 on a 5-point scale] -- but he gave no other university in the country that high a mark, handing out 18 "good"s (3's), 94 "adequate"s (2's), 126 "marginal"s, and 21 "don't know"s in the 2009 ranking. Because U.S. News's "national universities" category includes not only well-regarded public institutions such as the Universities of California at Berkeley, Michigan, and North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but also private universities such as Harvard, Stanford, and Yale, Barker has rated his institution more highly than all of those.
In an opinion piece about the Clemson affair, Burton A. Weisbrod and Evelyn D. Asch present another example of efforts to game the US News rankings:
Any performance measure is ripe to be gamed. The percentage of alumni giving is a measure worth 5 percent of a ranking in U.S. News. A few years ago, Albion College made its own stir in the higher education rankings world when it increased its percentage of alumni making donations with the stroke of a pen. As The Wall Street Journal reported, the college recorded a $30 donation from a graduating senior as a $6 alumnus gift for the next five years. Clemson, in its systematic approach to raising its rank — “no indicator, no method, no process off limits to create improvement,” as Watt stated — solicited alumni donations in such a way as to increase their giving rate: Alumni were encouraged to give as little as $5 annually.
And, here's one more method universities use to game the ranking system: overstate your positives.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Posted by Abi. Posted at 12:23 PM