KSU receives varied ranks by national polls

Kate Bigam

Students who chose to attend Kent State based on its academic merit may be in for a disheartening surprise when they browse U.S. News & World Report’s latest rankings of 248 national universities.

The annual report, which ranks schools based on academic quality, categorized Kent State in the fourth tier of universities, the lowest rating a school can receive.

“That’s a shock,” said academic adviser Barb Miller, who was unaware of the rankings. “I’m stunned because I really think we have great academic programs at the university.”

Final rankings are based on a we ighted combination of ratings in 15 individual categories, according to the U.S. News & World Report Web site. The most heavily weighted factors are peer assessment by the nation’s top academics, student retention rates and faculty resources.

According to the Web site, the universities are then divided into four tiers, but only schools in the top 50 percent are ranked numerically. Remaining schools are placed into the broader tier groupings and are listed alphabetically.

Joining Kent State in the fourth tier are the University of Akron, the University of Toledo, Wright State and Cleveland State. Other institutions in the state ranked far higher, including Case Western Reserve University, which snagged the 38th spot.

Miller, who graduated from Kent State with a masters in sociology in 1999, said she doesn’t think Kent State deserves the low rating it received.

“I think I’m prepared to work anywhere,” Miller said. “I’d put our graduates up against anyone.”

The rankings reported Kent State’s student retention rate as 72 percent, the highest of Ohio’s fourth-tier universities. Other schools fared far worse, including Cleveland State with a retention rate of just 61 percent.

U.S. News & World Report’s Web site defines national universities as ones that offer a wide variety of undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs and put a strong emphasis on faculty research. The magazine ranked liberal arts colleges, master’s universities and specialty schools separately.

Sophomore athletic training major Georgia Pauley said she thought Kent State’s low ranking was unfair.

“If they did it more upon what students said about their school, it’d be totally different,” Pauley said. “That would paint Kent in a much higher light.”

Vice President for administration David Creamer said he too questions the methods to determine school rankings.

“The criteria aren’t necessarily designed around the things large public universities are providing,” Creamer said. “If (students) are seeing those goals accomplished, I think they should feel good about their experience here.”

Those discouraged by Kent State’s poor performance on U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking should not be disheartened. Two more lists rank Kent State fairly high.

Washington Monthly, a liberal political magazine, came out with its own national rankings in a response to “shortcomings” in the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking methodology, according to the Washington Monthly Web site.

On the list, published in the September issue, Kent State ranks 56th out of 248 universities, just behind Case Western Reserve (25), Ohio State (27) and Ohio University (40). The next Ohio school to make the list is Miami University, which doesn’t come until 102.

In a description of the rankings posted on the magazine’s Web site, editors said, “We happen to think U.S. News and similar guides do a lousy job of actually measuring academic excellence,” because money and funding are too large an overall factor.

Instead, the new rankings measured schools’ effectiveness based on dedication to scientific research, service to poor students and how well each school “promotes an ethic of service to the country,” the Web site said.

Additionally, the renowned Princeton Review named Kent State one of 163 of the best colleges in the Midwestern region of the country, although schools on the list are not ranked numerically.

Contact administration reporter Kate Bigam at [email protected].