Tag Archives: rank

Bad News for the University of Texas

On March 14, Washington Post reporter Daniel de Vise, in his piece “Trying to assess learning gives colleges their own test anxiety,” reported that the University of Texas at Austin ranks very low in achievement of student learning. “For learning gains from freshman to senior year,” writes de Vise, “UT ranked in the 23rd percentile among like institutions. In other words, 77 percent of universities with similar students performed better.” The Post obtained this data through a public records request. The standardized test was conducted by the Collegiate Learning Assessment.

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What Should Kids Be Reading?

Books above a sixth-grade reading level, for sure. According to Renaissance Learning’s 2012 report on the books read by almost 400,000 students in grades 9-12 in 2010-2011, the average reading level of the top 40 books is a little above fifth grade (5.3 to be exact). While 27 of the 40 books are UG (upper grade in interest level), a fifth-grade reading level is obviously not high enough for college-level reading. Nor is it high enough for high school-level reading, either, or for informed citizenship.

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The Cheating and Fraud at Claremont McKenna

Claremont McKenna College, a private liberal arts school nestled in the foothills on the eastern outskirts of Los Angeles County,
dishonored itself and defrauded the public in a cheap effort to bolster its national rankings in U.S. News and World Report. But if that weren’t bad enough, Claremont’s deception calls into question the very worth of its students, faculty, and graduates.

Richard Vos, Claremont’s dean of admissions for 25 years, resigned in disgrace this week after admitting to systematically manipulating the college’s SAT scores since 2005. Vos evidently altered the mean, median, and range of SAT scores to boost the college’s position on the influential list of college rankings.

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12 More Law Schools Sued for Defrauding Students

Cross-posted
from Open Market
.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports
that
a team of eight law firms have just “sued a dozen more law schools
across the country, accusing them of luring students with inflated
job-placement and salary statistics and leaving graduates ‘burdened with debt
and with limited job prospects.’ The lawyers . . . said they planned to file 20
to 25 new lawsuits every few months . . . the lawsuits had been filed on behalf
of a total of 51 graduates, and each suit was seeking class-action status. The
targets of the latest round of lawsuits” include  “Brooklyn Law School
(N.Y.),” “Chicago-Kent College of Law,” DePaul University College of Law,”
“Golden Gate University School of Law,” “Hofstra Law School,” “University of
San Francisco School of Law,” “Widener University School of Law,” and several
others.

Continue reading 12 More Law Schools Sued for Defrauding Students

The US News Rankings Are Consistent with Aristocratic Values

In the current New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell entertainingly explains why computing a unidimensional ranking of educational quality from multidimensional indicators is a fool’s errand. In the case he examines, the project is to identify the best schools in order of quality, when the best school does not exist any more than a best kind of music exists. The absurdity of the project appears when we find out how much the outcome varies with the weights given the factors and realize that sensible people will weigh them differently. The pointlessness of the project deepens when we learn that the numbers being used to indicate quality are themselves of dubious value and subject to misreporting. In the first iteration of my Ranking Game, I showed that a law school’s rank might change substantially if the ranker includes faculty/student ratio (on which higher is better) instead of the opposite of (i.e., negative of) student/faculty ratio (again, on which higher is better). Which one is the better measure of school quality, faculty/student ratio or student/faculty ratio? Gladwell and Donald Downs rightly point out that price ought to be an important component of any rational decision. But no ranking designed to reach a heterogeneous audience will include school price as a fixed factor. If it were included, many readers would recognize that the ranking does not fit their situation because they qualify for a scholarship or because they do not attach the same importance to price. Conversely, leaving price out of the equation helps to obscure the fact that the ranking fits few prospective students. Omitting price tailors the ranking to those who have the means to pay any toll, which supports the observation that the priorities embedded in US News’s ranking are more consistent with aristocratic values than the values of access and efficiency. The omission of price might mislead students into taking on substantial debt in order to buy a negligible improvement in education. Continue reading The US News Rankings Are Consistent with Aristocratic Values

Advanced Placement Economics: Where Markets Fail and Government Is Perfect

High school students taking advanced placement courses in economics are being shortchanged. In 2010 the College Board and Educational Testing Service (ETS) administered 134,747 Advanced Placement (AP) microeconomics and macroeconomics exams to high school students. A new study systematically reviews the content of AP Economics. AP Economics gives ample attention to market failure, but no attention to government failure. It gives ample attention to Keynesian economics and to the mechanical manipulation of diagrams, but practically no attention to entrepreneurship, innovation, economic freedom, and property rights. In general, AP Economics gives little attention to the economic way of thinking. The study appears in the January 2011 issue of Econ Journal Watch and is authored by Tawni H. Ferrari, James D. Gwartney, and John S. Morton. The authors suggest ways to improve the AP Economics materials. The article is accompanied by a podcast.

The Rankings Will Always be Gamed

Trying to rank hundreds, if not thousands of colleges is obviously foolish, but this foolishness has consequences beyond supplying iffy advice to clueless shoppers. To the extent that potential enrollees take ratings seriously, institutions may be tempted to game the system and these tricks may well undermine education. To use Malcolm Gladwell’s illustration from Car and Driver, a car manufacturer can probably figure out the little gimmicks that magazine critics over-value and then accommodate these preferences even if they add zero to the car’s value.
Manipulating a rating will not push a third-rank school into the Ivy League, but in the mushy middle a few points can separate, say, 35 from 57. The temptation is to scam the system, regardless of the educational value. And what school can resist a little tinkering to leapfrog over rivals? So, if the rating formula stresses graduation rates, a few obscure bureaucratic adjustments—regular credit for what were once remedial courses, creating easy no-fail majors, allowing “Fs” to be expunged among similar ploys—can work wonders. Reed College refuses to participate in the U.S. News ranking, a wise choice given its low retention rate—hundreds of youngsters enroll in the mistaken belief that Reed is a sex and drug paradise, but most of these would-be hedonists flee almost immediately after encountering a hard-nosed take-no-prisoners freshman curriculum. Yet, this overly-generous admission generosity may benefit some high-potential under-achievers who might eventually flourish in a school of Reed’s intellectual caliber. If ratings were paramount and included retention, however, Reed would just play it safe and slip into staid conventionality.
And if average faculty compensation is the yardstick, any clever administrator can diddle the numbers. Just recruit expensive “star” talent who barely teach while “non-faculty” graduate students handle classroom instruction. Better yet, hire only those whose hefty salaries are paid by outside grants—get all the benefits of high salary compensation without any of the cost. Need more library holdings to impress the raters? No problem—buy cheaper paperbacks instead of expensive scholarly monographs. Need a reputation for “good teaching”? Since some raters use the internet to establish instructional “quality,” keep tough graders away from large required courses and watch ratings soar on ratemyprofessor.com.
My own favorite tactic for juicing “scholarly reputation” (at least in the social sciences) is to hire faculty who specialize in mathematical analysis and its variants like rational choice. These professors are amazingly productive and can quickly build a department’s disciplinary reputation where, as often the case, only publication volume counts. No matter that these professors teach gobbledygook to undergraduates who prefer history-rich accounts of WW II versus, say, a lecture on why country A attacked country B using the Prisoner’s Dilemma format. But don’t even think of hiring more substantively oriented adjuncts to compensate for these content-free courses—having too many part-timers, regardless of their backgrounds, especially if they lack doctorates, typically kills a school’s reputation among raters regardless of how much students learn.
This is a tail-wagging-the-dog problem—journalist outsiders, many of whom barely understand university life, shaping university policy by deciding what is academically important and even then, only using readily available crude information. That so many administrators happily defer to these ill-informed outsiders so as to up their rank a few notches is perhaps the most depressing feature of this foolishness.

Malcolm Gladwell and Those Shaky Rankings

As the author of a college guide that tries to help college-going students identify schools that would be a good “match” for them as individuals, I’ve always had three main gripes with the U.S. News & World Report rankings. First, you can’t quantify the really important factors that go into selecting the right college, such as the quality of student-faculty relations. Second, colleges manipulate the numbers to their own advantage. And finally, the rankings are premised on asking the wrong question. The issue is not what’s the “best” college in the abstract but what’s the best college for you?
At a time when it would seem that every conceivable argument to be made against the U.S. News rankings has been put forward, Malcolm Gladwell has now come along and, in his New Yorker riff on the topic, added some savory spice to the debate. Gladwell makes some conventional arguments. He rightly ridicules the proxies that the magazine uses for academic quality (“Do professors who get paid more money really take their teaching roles more seriously?”), and he joins the familiar chorus of complaints about the use of reputational surveys. College presidents are the last people I would ever consult in order to get a handle on the quality of a competing institution.

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Rituals Performed for the Elite

The U.S. News & World Report rankings of America’s “best” colleges and universities amount to nothing more than an annual ritual, a predictable coronation of entrenched wealth and power.
Even more importantly, for aspiring students and parents who hope to transcend their present class status, the yearly “guide” serves as the handmaiden to the elite. U.S. News rankings are like a public relations agency, a public persona standing at gates of admission to our “best” colleges, conveniently reminding aspiring Americans of the well-guarded paths to wealth and power.
Does anyone really believe that the students, parents and counselors at elite, mostly private, high schools pay any serious attention to the U.S. News rankings? Of course not. These schools and these families understand deeply how the system works and, especially, how to make the system work for them. They do not need U.S News to tell them which schools matter, and they follow the rankings with bemused disinterest.
That is not to say that the rankings are unimportant to elites. The annual ritual is a vital source of propaganda disguised by a pseudo-scientific calculation reminding our aspiring classes to “get in line and follow the rule” if they want a lottery chance at passing the gates. While the rankings purport to demonstrate to the public what separates good colleges form ordinary ones, the rankings are also the equivalent of the strict school marm, wagging her proverbial index finger at the strivers, the unwashed students and families who seek admission to the elite.
While the aspiring classes slavishly believe in its informative power, the rankings tell us little besides an institution’s wealth and prestige and position in the higher education hierarchy. According to U.S. News’s world view, a college or university is to be judged, not by what they actually do for students during their years on campus, such as how much chemistry, math, sociology and economics students actually learned while there.
Rather, in this upside-down world, colleges are judged by the “quality” of students they enroll. Quality, in essence, is measured by institutional selectivity – the percent of applicants who are accepted for admission. For the bulk of institutions in this universe, the direct correlate of selectivity is the average SAT score of entering freshman. The direct and powerful correlate of individual SAT scores is the cultural, educational and social capital which students acquire from their families. Families pass this human capital from generation to generation, and the so-called meritocracy is more than happy to oblige these privileges.
And so it goes, like a cascading river of wealth and power that obliterates all other considerations that bear on what higher education should mean in a democratic society. If one appreciates the status of inherited privilege, then let’s congratulate U.S. News on a job well done.

The New Yorker Takes on the US News College Rankings

college-cover.jpgMalcolm Gladwell has written his share of interesting and penetrating essays in The New Yorker in recent years. He has also authored such best-selling books as Blink, which is about rapid cognition and intuition, and The Tipping Point, which addresses the factors that contribute to unexpected change. The relevance of Tipping Point has received another big boost by the recent happenings in Egypt. Among Gladwell’s attributes is his ability to question and challenge conventional wisdom.
The virtues of Gladwell’s scalpel are on display in his New Yorker essay (February 14 and 21 issue) attacking U.S. News and World Report’s famous (or notorious) national “Best Colleges” ranking guide. Even though U.S. News is now defunct, the Guide survives and is used by millions of families. “The rankings have taken on a life of their own,” as Gladwell writes. Given the difficulty and complexity—often the sheer mystery—of knowing how schools compare, the Guide’s assignment of numerical rankings appears to have been a blessing, as it simplifies the task of evaluation for millions of students and parents. But what if it amounts to a false promise?
The Guide has been questioned by some empirical researchers, including Michael Bastedo of the University of Michigan and Jeffrey Stake of Indiana University, as well as by schools that feel unjustly slighted by its determinations. But seldom has it found itself in the sights of a national magazine like the New Yorker. Gladwell’s critique provides convincing evidence that consumers should take the Guide with a big spoon of salt.
The heart of the problem lies in the use and abuse of measurement. Gladwell tellingly begins his piece by comparing the Guide’s logic and methodology to Car and Driver’s recent comparison test of three sports cars: Chevy’s Corvette, the Porsche Cayman S, and the Lotus Evora. (Porsche won, followed by Corvette and Lotus). Car and Driver’s report is unreliable, Gladwell avers, because it applies the same twenty-one criteria to sports cars that it applies to all vehicles, thereby ignoring special concerns that sports car buyers have, such as the way the car looks. Nor did the test give much weight to cost, which matters a lot to consumers. Car and Driver attempts to have its cake and eat it, too, but “it’s an act of real audacity when a ranking system tries to be both comprehensive and heterogeneous at the same time.”

Continue reading The New Yorker Takes on the US News College Rankings

Accreditation: Are the Inmates Running the Asylum?

On paper, accreditation is an amazing system. Among other things, it simultaneously advises colleges on how to improve, enforces a minimum level of quality, provides needed information to policy makers, and protects colleges from government intrusion. It does all this with only a few hundred employees, and a few thousand volunteers. Indeed if accreditation actually accomplished all it claims to, it would be one of the best systems ever devised.

The only problem is that accreditation accomplishes almost none of what it is supposed to. The advice given to colleges is often inappropriate; accreditors refuse to define quality, let alone enforce a minimum level of it; the entire process is shrouded in secrecy, providing almost no information to outsiders; and while still relatively successful in shielding colleges from government intrusion, accreditors have too often used their quasi-governmental power to behave in just as dictatorial a manner. Accreditation needs to be reformed.

Read CCAP’s full report, prepared by Daniel Bennett, Richard Vedder and myself, for a detailed analysis of these problems and our proposed solutions, which would move us toward an outcomes-based quality control certification system.

Why Remediation in College Doesn’t Work

In his recent speech at the University of Texas in Austin, President Obama expressed deep unhappiness that the United States is no longer the country with the highest percentage of college graduates in the 25 to 34 age bracket. By 2020 he wants us to regain the top position we enjoyed ten years ago before South Korea, Canada, and Russia forged ahead of us. According to the latest report of the College Board, the United States is now 12th among the 36 developed nations whose college graduation rates the Board tabulated. Should the President have been unhappy? Only if he believes that our lower rate of college graduation reflects a lower rate of genuine educational achievement. If President Obama simply wants bragging rights, the United States can become first very quickly. All that is needed is to reduce graduation requirements or to increase grading inflation in college courses. (Or to give a college degree to every baby born in the United States along with a birth certificate.) The issue is what students with a college degree should know, not whether they have a piece of paper in exchange for all the time and money spent on a campus. It is troubling that only 40 per cent of Americans 25 to 44 have college degrees. It is even more troubling that of the 70 per cent of our high school graduates who enroll in college, only 57 per cent graduate within six years. One rather remote possibility – given studies that show how little American college graduates know – is that American colleges are maintaining high standards and that these high standards necessarily produce higher dropout rates and lower rates of college completion than President Obama would like. Unfortunately high standards do not appear to be the explanation.
Here is how one reader of the Wall Street Journal reacted to an article reporting the President’s call for more American college graduates:

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Not Just Another College Ranking

Forbes has issued its 3rd annual College Rankings, delivering its crown to Williams College. Comparison to the U.S. News and World Report list is inevitable so let’s not delay in getting to it; this result, and most of the top 20 rankings on the Forbes list aren’t that dissimilar from the similar U.S. News list (when accounting for the fact that Forbes elides the distinction between the “liberal arts college” and “university” categories). This is unsurprising; a number of the factors in their ranking formula are not much dissimilar from the US News and World Report list; student debt, loan default rates, four-year degree completion rates, and the like. Any sensible list would feature these factors, and it’s a testament to the objective value of certain colleges that they place highly on multiple lists.

The Forbes list is distinctive, however, for its focus on results; its “ends-oriented” ranking, despite its similarities with U.S. News at the top of the scale, seems worlds different once venturing lower in the listing. On this list Whitman College in Washington and Centre College in Kentucky outrank Dartmouth; Colgate University stands many spots above Brown. It is a different measure with clearly different results.

Forbes‘ initial formula two years ago proved the results-focused ranking simpler said than done; in granting a quarter of its weight respectively to an enrollment adjusted appearance of graduates in “Who’s Who in America” and to aggregated RateMyProfessor rankings, Forbes deserved the numerous accusations of rankings ham-handedness it received. Happily, their worthy goal has acquired a more substantial statistical foundation in this iteration.

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“Back-When-I-Was-in-School” Remembrance.

I started UCLA in 1977, having won admission with only a 3.1 GPA (but with decent SAT scores). When I got there my brother and I moved into Sproul Hall dormitory just above the track stadium. I came to campus thinking, “Yeah! Party time.”

There was certainly a fair number of loud ones every Friday and Saturday throughout De Neve Drive and along Fraternity Row, plus a few mid-week open doors with beer flowing inside. But something else, too. About half the guys I met spent three or four hours a night in University Research Library (URL—we called it “Urinal”). They rose around 8 or 9am, grabbed a quick breakfast in the dorm cafeteria, speeded down the hill to classes before and after lunch (it was the quarter system, with classes meeting four hours a week), then spent the late afternoon shooting hoops or throwing a football, then dinner at 6, then a trip to the library by 7. If you arrived after 8, you couldn’t find a seat. Each night, sitting in a carrel, I heard the tardy ones sidle by searching for spots and wandering floor to floor.

The other half of the guys I met had other plans. They weren’t much interested in college, or they dealt drugs, or they played sports all day, or they were just plain screw-ups. The diligent ones recognized them as such, and even though we enjoyed them there was no cachet of “cool” given to them. (Freshman and sophomore year I drifted perilously toward the latter group now and then.) Those who studied hard didn’t consider themselves superior, nor did they fit the nerd mold. They played high school football and drank Henry Weinhard. But they studied hard without groaning or crowing, taking their 20 or so hours a week as customary.

Continue reading “Back-When-I-Was-in-School” Remembrance.

An Educator for Indians and Capitalism

In the year 2000, American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland, CA, was one of the worst-performing middle schools in the state. Not a single student tested above the fiftieth percentile on state or national exams in math, and only eight percent of sixth-graders and 17 percent of eighth-graders passed that bar in reading (the rate for seventh-graders was zero.) Class attendance rates hovered around 65 percent. Junk lined the hallways, trash and rubbish cluttered the sidewalks and alleys outside. Neighbors called the school “the zoo.”
In Year 2008, American Indian Public Charter School had the highest test scores of any public school in Oakland. It ranked fifth among middle schools across the state.
What happened? A new principal arrived, Ben Chavis. His story appears in a recent book by Chavis and Carey Blakely entitled Crazy Like a Fox: One Principal’s Triumph in the Inner City
According to Chavis, among other things, the school was trapped in a culturalist fantasy. In an effort to instill racial pride and respect American Indian tradition, school leaders developed a curriculum that included courses in drumming and bead-making. The school day started late because they believed “American Indians couldn’t get up early in the morning.” The first hours brought everybody together for a session in which students and teachers discussed their feelings and interests and worries. Meanwhile, truancy, vandalism, and failure continued.
When Chavis took office, it all changed. He substituted “culture” classes with basic math and reading coursework oriented on explicit disciplinary standards. He extended the school year. He assigned detention freely for slight infractions, including a saturday detention period. He gave out financial awards for perfect attendance. He brought local drug dealers and thugs into the school to meet the students and promised them $5 for every absent student they found on the streets and returned to campus. He implemented a four-part education model made up of 1) family, 2) accountability, 3) high expectations, and 4) free market capitalism. In fact, he says, he insisted on “a free market capitalistic mind-set in our students and staff.” And he didn’t complain that the school needed more money.
There is much more to tell about the year-by-year progress of the school, including the firing of incompetent and lazy staff as well as the expulsion of what can only be called a racial pathology destroying the school until Chavis took over. It is a remarkable story of a man of solid work-ethic values and entrepreneurial vision working miracles.

Shall We Rank Law Schools for Diversity?

Two law-school professors, Vikram David Amar and Kevin R. Johnson, recently published a piece in FindLaw.com on “Why U.S. News and World Report Should Include a Diversity Index in its Ranking of Law Schools.” Early on, the piece notes a research finding that, by including in its law-school index the LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs of the students admitted and enrolled, the USNWR ranking “creates disincentives for schools to admit and enroll applicants from underrepresented groups that have not – as groups – fared particularly well in grades or on standardized tests.”

The good news is that Amar and Johnson don’t suggest what many on the Left would immediately demand, namely that the index and, for that matter, law schools themselves simply ignore test scores and grades if they have a politically incorrect disparate impact. The bad news is that the authors instead embrace the “welcome development” that Bob Morse, USNWR‘s “point person for law school ratings,” has “recently expressed openness to thinking about incorporating a ‘diversity index’ into the rating methodology.”

Amar and Johnson then agree with Mr. Morse that “measuring diversity is a very complicated issue,” since after all it requires deciding which racial groups “should be included in the definition of diversity, and determining the extent to which the diversity index should go beyond race and ethnicity – to include socio-economic class, gender, sexual orientation, geography, age, and perhaps religion and other characteristics ….” True enough (and probably a good reason to rethink the wisdom of the whole undertaking).

Continue reading Shall We Rank Law Schools for Diversity?

A SHORT Guide to College Guides

Does it matter which college guide a high-school student consults? Yes indeed. They all differ in poundage, cost and frankness. To illustrate the various approaches, and the various levels of candor, here are five guides discussing one school, Wesleyan University of Middletown, Connecticut:
Barron’s Guide to the Most Competitive Colleges is the driest of the guides and unusually prone to boosterism. It says Wesleyan’s “unparalleled academics and unique student body makes for a college experience unsurpassed elsewhere.” “The breadth of offering is outstanding.” The guide names a few courses many of us would probably be eager to skip, including “Commons, Alliance and Shared Resources,” “Politics of Terrorism” and “Tropical Ecology and the Environment.” The faculty gets high marks (“outstanding and engaging”), the economics department is hailed as renowned, and the science faculty “has received more outside funding from prestigious sources such as NSF and NIH than their peers at any comparable institution.” Nothing here about the campus culture.
The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges, written by the staff of the Yale Daily News, is far more irreverent, mentioning at the outset that Gawker, a popular gossip site on the Web, says Wesleyan is the nation’s “most annoying liberal arts college.” The guide, based heavily on interviews with students, mentions one of the zanier aspects of Wesleyan: the so-called “naked dorm,” which features some public nudity, but not much. The Yalie authors say Wesleyan is a druggy, ultraliberal and politically correct campus. At each campus this guide features a brief comment on “one thing I would change.” At Wesleyan the one thing is “I’d change the repressive remnant of political correctness that actually makes people self-censoring and makes conversation less interesting.”
The Best 371 Colleges, published by the Princeton Review, says Wesleyan students are “liberal and alternative,” “passionate” and “intelligent.” One interviewee said students see the place as “a playground for the most opinionated and social-norm destroying students of our generation to debate issues that really matter to them.” No description of norm-destroying is offered in the text, however. Nothing much about the campus culture either.
The Fiske Guide to Colleges also describes Wesleyan students as passionate, and adds “progressive, politically minded and fiercely independent.” The campus is “hands down an activist campus.” Classes are small (only 7 percent of courses have more than 50 students) and taught by “a highly rated faculty.” “The key to Wesleyan’s success seems to be the fostering of an intellectual milieu where independent thinking and an appreciation of differences are omnipresent,” a comment at odds with guides that depict Wesleyan as narrowly liberal and intolerant of non-liberal ideas.
Choosing the Right College is a generally conservative guide (“right college” clearly has two meanings) published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Unsurprisingly, it is negative about Wesleyan’s far-left culture. The looser cafeteria-style curriculum, one professor says, “can leave students unable to confront the larger debates that have been central to the Western tradition.” Questionable courses include “Personal Identity and Choice,” which is listed as a philosophy course. One professor says: “Heavy university investments in fashionable studies have led to a systematic underfunding of core departments.” The guide reports, “Underage drinking is pervasive… often accompanied by liberal drug use.” Other guides avoid mentioning the great chalking controversy. Not this one. Aggressive gay groups, as one student explained, “would chalk the sidewalks across campus with various slogans,” including “the kinds of sex acts they would have with incoming freshmen, some of which tended toward the violent.” This proved controversial when parents visited the campus with their high-school sons and daughters. Still, the guide gives Wesleyan credit for some strong departments, including history and philosophy, and one student says undergrads show far more toleration for libertarian, conservative and religious ideas than do their professors.

Ranking Colleges By ”Economic Diversity”

In an effort to show which colleges are reaching out to low-income students, U.S. News & World Report has published “economic diversity” rankings of American colleges and universities. That sounds ambitious, but the rankings are based solely on the percentage of students at each institution who receive federal Pell grants, which mostly go to applicants from families with incomes under $20,000 a year. The magazine concedes that the percentage of Pells “isn’t perfect” as a measure of commitment to enrolling low-income students, but says many experts consider it the best available gauge.
Highest in the rankings is an institution most American have likely never heard of—the University of La Verne, La Verne, California, with 89 percent of students on Pell grants. Many colleges at the top of these rankings, unsurprisingly, are non-selective institutions, many of which explicitly cater to low-income students. Among the highest-ranking high-prestige colleges and universities are UCLA (35 percent) and the University of California, Berkeley (32 percent). The most selective institutions tend to cluster low in the rankings, at 10 percent (Yale, Princeton, Duke, Tufts, Northwestern) or below (Notre Dame, William and Mary, Virginia, Washington University in St Louis).
The rankings respond to complaints that U.S. News focuses too tightly on rich private universities, as well as to complaints that race and gender preferences ought to be converted into class-based ones that help the children of the poor regardless of race or gender. Pell-based rankings are simple, easy to compile and demonstrate U.S. News’ social concern. But are they helpful? Not yet. It isn’t useful to know a college’s percentage of Pell students (the figure at the University of Texas—El Paso is 53 percent) unless you also know the likelihood that those students will succeed (small in the case of UTEP, which has a graduation rate of 7 percent after six years).

Top Five Law School Ranking Scams

The Shark provides a list of the top five Law School “Admissions Innovations” of 2008, with analysis.
The ludicrous Baylor case is ranked one, but I hadn’t heard of several of the others. Take #3

University of Michigan Law School’s Wolverine Scholars Program admits University of Michigan undergrads who have at least a 3.8 GPA and agree not to take the LSAT
a. How it works:
i. There is no LSAT score to report to U.S. News which is fine, and the 3.8 GPA will boost the median GPA of Michigan’s entering class.
b. How much it matters:
i. Median LSAT – 12.5% of school’s total score.
ii. Median undergrad GPA – 10% of school’s total score.

See how clever law schools really are. Read the rest.