Rankings overrated, says KSU official

Ben Wolford

When freshman Gaurav Awasty chose to come to Kent State, it wasn’t because of the university’s 2009 U.S. News and World Report ranking.

Though Kent State has maintained its position in Tier 3 – among the top 150 colleges in the nation – its administrators don’t put much store in those rankings.

Neither did Awasty, opting instead to look at the quality of Kent State’s programs, namely the integrated life sciences degree.

“There are only three, six-year (M.D.) programs in the country, and this is one of them,” Awasty said.

Tom Neumann, associate vice president for university communications and marketing, emphasizes the recruiting value of Kent State’s programs over its rank.

“The national rankings are overrated,” Neumann said. He added, “I think the jury’s really out” on whether the rankings affect enrollment.

Since 1983, U.S. News and World Report has ranked U.S. universities based on six-year graduation rates, average class size and a peer assessment from presidents and provosts of other universities – the most heavily-weighted piece of theformula.

This year, 54 percent of universities asked to participate in the peer assessment refused to do so, according to a report from Inside Higher Ed, an online news source.

Organizations such as The Education Conservancy, which states on its Web site that “rankings oversimplify and mislead,” have helped lead to the drop in respondents.

President Lester Lefton said the ranking system is less than perfect, citing the subjectivity of the peer assessment.

“There are serious flaws in how U.S. News and World Report is calculated,” he said. “It doesn’t really reflect the quality of a person’s education.”

Nonetheless, Lefton is happy to be high in the top 150.

“We’re the only school in Northeast Ohio that is in that group,” he said. “It should make everybody feel good that they’re in one of the best universities in the country.”

Lefton said Kent State has been able to stay in Tier 3 by keeping class sizes tight and by sporting better than expected graduation rates.

But maintaining the school’s ranking in the magazine isn’t priority No. 1 in the administration.

“It’s always nice to be recognized,” Neumann said, “but it’s not something we go after.”

Contact administration reporter Ben Wolford at [email protected].