‘U.S. News,’ ‘Princeton’ offer different views

Amanda Garrett

Last week Kent State announced that the Princeton Review, a New York-based company, that polls students on their satisfaction with academics and lifestyle, named Kent State one of the best colleges in the Midwest.

However, U.S. News and World Report’s annual America’s Best Colleges issue gave Kent State a different ranking.

According to the rankings released last August, Kent State is a fourth-tier university – the lowest designation that can be given. The U.S. News rankings bases its ratings on a peer assessment score along with statistical rankings in 12 areas.

Provost Paul Gaston said he believes both the Princeton and the U. S. News rankings are not good measures of success.

“In my view, neither ranking system offers a reliable assessment of large universities that have a complex mission,” Gaston said. “I am pleased by strong reviews and irritated by negative ones. I believe all current rankings systems rely too heavily on impressions of an institution’s quality. Such impressions are often vague and poorly informed.”

Gaston said he has doubts about the quality of the peer assessment rating, which accounts for 25 percent of an institution’s ranking.

“Each year I receive a U.S. News ranking sheet and take the time to provide an assessment of institutions from Maine to California,” he said. “Although I only comment about those institutions (about) which I have some knowledge, I suspect many respondents take the responsibility less seriously.”

Among Ohio’s 13 four-year universities, only Ohio State, Miami University and Ohio University were nationally ranked. Among the other 10 institutions, three fell into the third tier and seven, including Kent State, were in the fourth tier.

Kent State was one of the better performing fourth-tier schools in Ohio and had a peer-assessment rating of 2.6, which is the highest ranking in the fourth tier.

One of Kent State’s best rankings was in classes with under 20 students. Kent State had a ranking of 49 percent, which is the third best in the state.

The areas where Kent State lagged behind other fourth-tier universities included alumni-giving rate, freshmen in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class and SAT/ACT scores.

Rankings are only one of the factors that students considered before they enroll in a college, said Pete Goldsmith, vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs.

“We look at the data when it comes in, but we don’t chase the rankings,” he said. “There are many other factors that students and parents weigh when choosing a college. Other factors like cost and distance from home play a part in their decisions.”

In the final analysis, Kent State’s academic reputation does not depend on rankings, Gaston said.

“The academic reputation of Kent State depends on the work of our outstanding faculty and on the success of our students,” he said. “I am proud of both and believe that both entitle the university to a strong reputation.”

Contact academic affairs reporter Amanda Garrett at [email protected].