Read between the ranking

Bethany English

U.S. News and World Report ranked Kent State as 183 of 197 universities, placing it only a few schools above Tier 2, the lowest 25 percent.

The key to understanding these rankings lies in knowing how they are assessed. Though Kent State followed closely behind Ball State and Bowling Green with a total score of 23 compared to Ball State’s 24 and Bowling Green’s 26, it appeared lower due to multiple ties among universities.

While Robert Frank, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, said he is pleased to see Kent is now considered within Tier 1, the administration won’t become fixated on rankings.

The previous four-tier system changed this year to a two-tier system. The new system ranked the top 75 percent of national universities within its Tier 1.

Robert Morse, director of data research for U.S. News and World Report, said in an e-mail interview that the new Tier 1 is the old Tier 1 plus Tier 3.

“Kent’s actual rank is more or less unchanged from last year,” Morse added in the e-mail.

Frank acknowledged the importance of ranking colleges, but he said students should be aware of what is contributing to their university’s score.

Certain factors used in the ranking process may tend to be skewed in favor of larger, better-known schools. Universities like Harvard have a legacy of alumni financial support, so they outrank Kent State in an aspect the university hasn’t focused on very much, Frank said.

Peer assessments by other universities also weighed heavily on the rankings. Although non-academic factors may sneak into ratings, Frank said prospective students view these rankings as a gauge of the university’s overall value.

“There is an extraordinary focus on the value of higher education,” Frank said. “Rankings have gained importance as a result of that.”

But for some Kent State students, rankings aren’t the most important factor in choosing a college.

Thomas Sampsell, a freshman accounting major, said he knew the business program at Kent State was a good program.

“Say you go to one of the top schools, but they aren’t good in your program,” Sampsell said. “Then, it doesn’t matter.”

According to U.S. News and World Report, Kent State’s business program ranks 159 out of 364 undergraduate business programs across the nation.

Even without considering the rankings, improvements to the university, such as higher graduation and retention rates, have been concerns for the past four years under Lefton’s administration, Frank said.

Identifying at-risk students early and creating more engaging large-scale classes are two ways Frank said Kent State is trying to encourage student satisfaction and retention.

He also mentioned that it is important not to get caught up in the rankings. By focusing on one area where Kent State could improve and bump up its rank, other areas may be overlooked.

“We’re doing all the right stuff,” Frank said. “We just need to continue to focus on the things we have been doing.”

Contact Bethany English [email protected]

The U.S. News and World Report takes the following criteria into account to measure a school’s rank among its peers.

Peer assessment 22.5%

Faculty Resources 20%

Student Selectivity 15%

Graduation and Freshmen Retention 10%

Financial Resources 10%

Graduation Performance Rate (based on 6-year graduation) 7.5%

Alumni Giving Rate 5%

Source:U.S. News and World Report 2011 College Rankings