About those WSJ College Rankings…

Ranked 51st in the country? Say it ain’t so!

If you believe the U.S. News & World-Report college rankings have any value, you might be disappointed to see that the University of Virginia was rated merely the 25th best national university in the country in 2018. But alumni should absolutely dismayed by their alma mater’s performance in the latest Wall Street Journal ranking — 51st!

Be not dismayed, fellow Wahoos. There are many reasons to criticize UVa, as I have repeatedly done on this blog. But this is not one of them. Indeed, conservative and libertarian Wahoos should wear this Wall Street Journal ranking, conducted in partnership with  London-based Times Higher Education, as a badge of pride — pride for what UVa has not yet become.

All rankings revolve around the choice of methodology. The WSJ/Times ranking reflect questionable values and priorities. As the ranking explains in its notes, researchers used 15  indicators that assess institutions on the basis of outcomes, resources, “engagement,” and “environment.”

Outcomes (with a 40% weight) include such conventional factors as the salaries that graduates earn and the debt they take on. Resources (30% weight) is a proxy for the resources put into instruction and student service.  Engagement (20%), drawn mostly from student surveys, “examines views on things like teaching and interaction with faculty and other students.” And environment (10%) reflects the “diversity” of the university community.

UVa ranks broken down by category:

Outcome: 24
Resources: 192
Engagement: 304
Environment: 476

Apparently, UVa scored poorly on the survey (the methodology for which was not explained), which asked if students felt they had made the right choice, were inspired by their environment, and the like.

The WSJ/Times ranking highlights Brown University as an example of an institution with high “engagement.” What’s the secret?

Provost Richard Locke attributes the school’s high mark for engagement to the fact that students don’t have specific courses they’re required to take. “You only have students in your class who want to be there,” he says, which changes the tenor of classroom conversations.

Brown also encourages hands-on learning through its Engaged Scholars Program, with courses on the anthropology of homelessness bringing students to social-service agencies, for example, or urban-studies students learning about the tactics of community organizers.

No required courses? Anthropology of homelessness? Is it a good thing or bad thing that UVa doesn’t match such an approach? You be your own judge.

As for “diversity,” it’s true that UVa is less racially/ethnically diverse than other institutions — despite strenuous efforts to recruit African-Americans and Hispanics. But assigning that criteria a 10% weight in determining the “Top Colleges” is a raw political statement.

The metric that irritates me most is academic spending per student. UVa spends $22,690 per student, which looks pretty stingy compared to say, $117,990 at Yale. First, there’s a presumption that more spending is better. Second, the metric says nothing about how that money is spent. How much of that spending, for instance, supports expensive R&D programs or pays fat salaries for full professors who do little teaching, benefiting undergraduates not at all? Third, does it occur to anyone that Yale’s spending of $180,000 per student is positively obscene?

When I see what other colleges and universities are doing, I realize that things could be worse. UVa is a mess. But all things are relative. Mr. Jefferson’s University still has a long way to fall.

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49 responses to “About those WSJ College Rankings…”

  1. Lawrence Hincker Avatar
    Lawrence Hincker

    Having spent a chunk of my career studying college rankings, I agree that the methodology one selects determines, to some extent, the outcomes. But note also that the WSJ/THE rankings include virtually ALL major colleges and universities. The more well known ranking from US News segregates liberal arts colleges from national research universities (such as UVA). US News further segregates small regional colleges or universities. Thus, the WSJ/THE ranking is essentially one great big pool for colleges and universities which, in my opinion, are so dissimilar that making comparisons is futile

  2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    These days common sense typically strikes “our betters” at random, and rare insight is sparked.

    For example, this quote I take from Jim’s post:

    “Apparently, UVa scored poorly on the survey (the methodology for which was not explained), which asked if students felt they had made the right choice, were inspired by their environment, and the like.”

    Of course, Jim, some students at UVA are unhappy, fearful they made a wrong choice. The University has been put them through a vicious wringer over and over again since 2012. Especially if they’re white boy students, like fraternity boys, or young women too, if they be well grounded, aware, and mature, despite what today is often a toxic education they must endure.

    Simply put, the students and faculty at UVA have been brought to hysteria several times over the past 6 years, forced by the University into bouts of self-hate, self-doubt, self flagellation, finger pointing, lies, and false accusations of the worst sort, the kind that undermine their future, and ours too.

    Most recently this toxic contagion was spread by UVA into the streets of Charlottesville – pitched battles and attacks on police – all aided, abetted, even lead at times by UVA students and faculty, along with local politicians. The town now is in near total dysfunction, politically, civilly, and socially.

    Meanwhile, most of us remain largely clueless, worried about idiot college rankings by magazines and newspapers.

    But there is irony here, too. For once, a poll by WSJ gets things somewhat right. For once some pollsters are living in the real world for a change, asking a few sensible questions that get meaningful and important answers. That of course many of us living in today’s bubble, simply dismiss or fail to understand.

    1. Reed, you might well be right about why students responded negatively in the poll. But we don’t know. You offer a plausible hypothesis about their reasoning, but it’s only a hypothesis. I do agree, though, that someone should conduct a poll exploring their thinking in more depth, specifically mentioning the topics that you bring up.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Well, I intend as earlier stated to provide more details already provided by others and available for those willing to delve into it. But I think the many deeply unfortunate events at UVA occurring before last summer (2016) and fully documented and made public on this blog and elsewhere, surely, unless one is willingly blind, explain the answers revealed in the WSJ poll. We like the three monkeys on the fence, hear on evil, see no evil, speak no evil, everywhere we look this days. All the silence. It is quite remarkable.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    I dunno – looking at the top 20…. those 20 seem to score well in other rankings…

    so… don’t pick/choose the ranking you like best of try to find fault with various methodologies … put them together in a composite ranking…

    All of these rankings are subject to arbitrary and subjective influences… but if a school scores high on several different rankings – it’s easier to focus on what are agreed strong points across different methodologies and to quibble on the things the rankings maybe don’t agree on… etc…

    Personally – I also like the Dept of Ed College Scorecard – which is tuned to more objective metrics… https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/

  4. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    I don’t like any of these rankings either, Larry. There are bogus. I have explained why and how many times in many ways on this blog, as have many others elsewhere many times in many ways.

    But most of us can’t stop thinking about higher education as if your can tally up the value of your son or daughter’s university or college education like you can tally up the score of a college footfall game, or the batting and fielding statistics of a baseball player.

    It’s ridiculous, all of it.

    It demeans all colleges. It demeans all universities. It demeans the value and purpose of education itself. It demeans the value and contribution of every great teaching professor, all whom you can find in abundance (if you look) within most all institutions of higher education, no matter their ranking.

    These “polls” and rankings do enormous harm. As explained here in earlier posts, and many places elsewhere.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Here is an earlier comment, giving some of my reasons for opposing today’s college and university rating systems, found at post entitled What’s Driving up the Cost of Attendance at Virginia’s Colleges, November, 24, 2017:

      Peter –

      I agree with you that U.S News & World Report, its rating systems, and others like it, have reeked enormous damage on America’s system of higher education. These ratings systems prey upon the best and worst instincts of parents, who only want “the best” for their kids, but are grossly mislead by these rating systems as to what the Best in Higher Education really is, and how to find the best, and how to best take advantage of the best.

      These U.S News & World Report rating systems also reek havoc and otherwise damage most everything and everybody they touch in higher education, whether they be students, parents, taxpayers, college Boards of Trustees, administrators of all kinds, faculty of all kinds, and Alumni.

      So, for example, these U.S News rating systems prey upon the worst and best instincts of colleges and universities too, and ignite vicious cycles of bad habits by all concerned, including surging costs, mission creep, and lost of focus and lost of mission, that harms and corrupts all involved. And these ratings drive costs sky high while they drive down the quality of education that students receive at the vast majority of “selective” American institutions irrespective of their rank.

      As to how this works, and how it has happened over time, it is important to remember that US News & World Report’s annual rankings first appeared in 1983. By then the quality of undergraduate education in America was already in a free fall, and had been since the late 1960’s. The authority and control of Administrators to maintain standards of teaching and learning in their institutions had been in collapse since the mid to late 1960s. This collapse was concurrent with the rise of the radical left among the faculty during this time of great social and cultural upheaval in America generally, and on campuses in particular. (Recall 1968 Democratic convention, the Weather Underground Organization (WUO), and Jesuit Berrigan Bros, for a few of many examples)

      Much of this vast cultural shift within US higher education came to stay, ferment, and grow into a force of dramatic impact. This fueled the rise of post modernism – relativism, deconstruction, and critical cultural studies – that was well on its way in the 1980s to destroying traditional teaching of undergraduate Liberal Arts and Sciences on America’s campuses. The Western Canon, the best of that body of scholarship, writings, and traditions that had been built over the space of 2000 years was being trashed and discarded and replaced by an every growing hodgepodge of courses called “NEW KNOWLEDGE. This stuff was and is a complete impostor, little more than angry imaginings of maladjusted college professors using their axes to grind up the Canons of Civilizations on the altar of suddenly discovered grievances and injustices by abusive and oppressive types of people and cultures who over the past 2000 years of recorded history have inflicted a litany of horrors on ever expanding types and kinds of other oppressed peoples of other races, genders, ethic groups, cultures, classes, and others however slightly different. However valid originally, this has now reached the point of parody, if not now the level of the absurd, and obviously so.

      But this rampant claptrap fueled an explosion of research and research papers on the undergraduate level by the late 1970s, tripling and quadrupling the time faculty devoted to research and the spawning of New Knowledge courses that poisoned undergraduate level education at many American Universities. Indeed, as this research become ascendant and then dominant, the teaching of students, and the demands placed on student learning, in colleges and universities plummeted. Student skills in reading, and writing, and critical analysis and problem solving, began a long and decline that continues to this day, as did the decline in homework study and testing in the substance of whatever was taught in the classroom, not to mention the abrupt decline in the quality and substance of the courses taught in the classroom.

      Unfortunately, the US News and World Report Rating System put these bad habits on steroids beginning in the 1980s. The enormous power these magazine rating systems came to wield over the buying habits of students and parents (where students applied, and how they formulated their first, second, third, fourth, and back up choices) put the students and their desires in the drivers seat, in so far as concerned school administrators and faculty. It also turned the students into commodities whose every whim, and desire had to be catered to by the colleges and universities, to attract students to the school and keep them happy once there. For now, their student’s Advance Placement and SAT scores, and their application and acceptance and retaining rate, were critically important to an institutions national, regional, and local rating, which in turn could easily make or break a institutions success or failure in the market place. This launched a very costly building and amenities war. And, this destroyed the institutions and faculty’s ability of enforce educational and learning standards on students.

      Indeed now a professors main job vis a vis students went from teaching and challenging students to learn to entertaining students and keeping them happy, and this came to mean affording their students the most pain free ways of graduating with the least amount of pain, work, failure or effort. So, yet again, reading and writing, and serious testing and grades, went out the window in most courses but hard sciences, while entertainment and junk courses exploded in popularly throughout most college curriculum.

      In essence, what happened was that a peace treaty was signed between the school and the students so that each got what they wanted. The student got graduated and good grades with the least amount of work and the most amount of fun and recreation, while the faculty got ever more time away from teaching and grading students, and ever more time for faculty research and development of professor’s businesses, chasing grants, getting outside clients, and burnishing their professional chops while turning over ever more teaching, grading, and advising to adjunct non tenured professors, graduate students, and post graduate students, the vast majority of which are low salaried contract employee with little long future or security at the school.

      This gig, its big bundle of bad habits, went through the roof after the year 2000. This was fueled by the explosion of federal student loans and grants, and the vast increases in the federal funding of STEM research, and other projects that the federal government had an interest in, like defense, global warming, health care, alleged sexual abuse on campus, you name it.

      This only strengthened the hand of the Magazine rating power game that now forces Colleges and Universities to play its games, and to meet its demands, as well as the demands of the federal government, the students, their parents, the Alumni, and state governments, and big private interest investors and funders. Yet again this has ignited the highly expensive arms races among ALL THE SELECTIVE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES as they must built ever more expensive “five Star” facilities and student bodies to complete with one another, most particularly their peers, and impress their many masters, whether their race be for the TOP TEN in the Nation, or among those schools ranking between 140 and 160 in the nation.

      Meanwhile, students, now highly sought after commodities are wined, dined, and pampered to, not challenged, or made to work hard to earn good grades and so prove their competence, but it is their fate now to be entertained and catered to. Hence, today far too many students of all abilities become whiners and complainers, and fragile and fearful, or grossly incompetent but dominating until they fall apart when challenged. See for example the U Tubes screaming girl at Yale. And, it is for sure that far too many students today get no where near the education that they deserve and pay for.

      But at long last there is reason for hope. Signs that things are beginning to change. And that they can change as new leaders take charge and old leaders who have been fighting and holding on now re emerge after a long winter in the dark, into a changing social and political climate. Change is in the air.

  5. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    To repeat myself, the problem with these rankings is they are the tail that wags the dog. Somebody at these schools is feverishly preparing memos for leadership on what they must change to rank higher, and great teaching at stable prices is not likely to lead the list.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      yes, you are exactly right, Steve.

      I did long and detailed comment here on this tail wagging the dog nature of these rankings and all the harm this does to our students. When, I have the time to run it down this past comment in the archives, I will post it here.

      It is remarkable all the myths and disinformation put out today about higher and lower education in America. Most of it is generated by the educational establishment itself in order to promote its own private interests, and/or to hide the truth of what is really going on, and/or a refusal to accept the success of past successful practices, in order to hide or ignore those successes so that today’s establishment can claim new largely false breakthrough successes for itself today.

      So one must wade through much garbage and flack to get at the truth, and the history of the truth about education. In short, the essential truth is that the real education of the great majority of students today is collapsing around them and us. And it has been in a tailspin for years.

      Hence, for example, today’s professors with great seriousness claims that “Having spent a chunk of my career studying college rankings, I agree that the methodology one selects determines, to some extent, the outcomes. But …”

      Imagine the hours the academy has devoted to these false idols.

    2. Agreed. What’s sad is the same posters come on here year after year and bemoan, “When I was in school, U.Va. was ranked X by U.S. News.” When that poster was in school, was Yale spending $100K+ per student?

      I don’t think a public university has been ranked above 20th in the U.S. News rankings in a decade, but somehow posters will come on here and say, “Oh see, U.Va. is doing poorly b/c their U.S. News ranking isn’t as high as when I was in school.” Do these same posters want U.Va. to spend $100K per student? Because you’re right, Steve Haner, the U.S. News rankings weight resources per student almost as heavily as WSJ does.

      If you want an honest appraisal of universities, it is this:

      The Ivies, Vandy, Duke, MIT, etc. are great private research universities.

      Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan, Virginia, UNC, W&M, and UT-Austin are great public universities.

      Both sets of universities are going to place their top 25% in the top consulting firms, investment banks, grad or professional programs, etc.

      If you want to go the engineering route, GT and VT and similar schools are good options.

      I don’t think you can really put a numerical value on these types of schools. For example, is there really an engineering firm that’s going to really say, “Well, candidate X went to VT and Y went to GT, so I’m going to hire X or Y simply on the basis of the school’s name?” No. They’re so similar as to not even matter. The firm will look at the personal characteristics of the candidates.

      Just like nobody is really going to sit down at an investment bank and look at U.S. News rankings and say, “Well U.Va. is ranked higher than Austin, so we’ll just have to hire this person.” Of course not. Both are really great public universities. No one in the real world cares about the ranking.

      Even in grad school admissions, if you have 2 kids, one with a 4.0 from Cornell and one with a 4.0 from William & Mary, no admissions officer is going to automatically pick the kid from Cornell b/c of a ranking. Both are exceptional schools, and they’re going to look a lot deeper at both kids b/f offering admission to one or the other. They aren’t setting there with a copy of U.S. News deciding that since Cornell is ranked “higher” that that student will get in over the W&M kid.

      1. djrippert Avatar

        I’m one of those posters and I stand by my comments. I don’t know what UVA spent per student in the years between 1977 and 1981. However, I’d bet the ratio between what UVA spent and what Yale spent was roughly the same then as now.

        Everybody complains about the ratings but nobody has an alternative. While I question the value of any one year’s rating I think the trend of a well run rating system has merit. My biggest question is how much the rating methodology has changed over the years making time over time comparisons suspect. At the beginning of USN&WR rankings only colleges and universities which wanted to be ranked were ranked. As I recall, around 1990, USN&WR ranked colleges and universities whether they volunteered to be ranked or not. It seems to me that’s the only valid starting point for comparing rankings. By that standard UVA has been slipping. No great plunge but a steady drop of a spot or two every few years. Most of the slippage has been against private schools but there are some publics that contend with UVA for top spots among public universities.

        I assume that the same people who don’t like college ratings also buy participation trophies for their kids for showing up to athletic contests. I spent the last 37 years in a different world where I was rated every 90 days with metrics like revenue, revenue growth, profitability, etc. These metrics were complied based on a rigorous methodology (GAAP) and confirmed by third party experts (independent auditors). While I certainly didn’t excel in every one of those quarters I did better than most. More importantly, I never whined about being rated. In my world there were no participation trophies. There shouldn’t be any for UVA’s administration either.

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          Yeah, UVA rankings are dropping and likely will continue to drop. Here is why.

          In my first year there, admitted from out of state, Maryland, my entering undergraduate entering class comprised 55% from out of state. My frat house was 75% northern fancy prep school boys, from Baltimore, Philly, NYC, New England. Virginia then was said to be #11 in nation (before these sorts of rankings we have today).


          Edgar Shannon, a Rhodes Scholar, on becoming President in 1959, is said to have instituted these policies to turn Viginia’s academic reputation around. And he did it. Before him it was common to take 5 to 7 years to graduate. A few were still there when I arrived.

          Today, if UVA went back to limiting in state to 45%, its rankings would soar again. Today it is limited to a 30% out of state acceptance rate, not the 55% in my day,.

          1. Reed,

            I think there is would be a lot of opposition to increasing out of state positions (at the expense of in state positions) in Nova and in the legislature. (And that would apply to other schools like W&M as well.) I think the status quo isn’t going to change. Also, out of state tuition is very high now, which brings in a lot of private competition. That said, the University of Michigan has done exactly what you mention, and is close to 50% out of state. They seem to have ranking and selectivity momentum.

            If I recall correctly, if you add 4 year graduation rate (a measure of satisfaction and the institution doing its job) and alumni giving rates (a measure of post-graduation satisfaction), W&M and UVA are the top two public universities in the U.S. And I think VT and JMU are pretty strong as well. In that regard, Virginia has some very enviable options.

          2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            I have over time come to change my earlier views expressed here, about strictly keeping UVA for Virginians. In short, I have long supported here the current 70% in state t0 30% out of state.

            I now, however, think that on balance UVA should go to at least 50/50.

            And that perhaps it should go to a higher ratio of out of state undergraduate students, provided the great majority of new undergraduates are US Citizens.

            Why the change of heart?

            I know that the out of state diversity of students at UVA in my time deeply enriched my and my friends experience there, while enrolled, and later, not only professionally, but also culturally and worldly wise.

            I also know that the high proportion of out of state students during my time there greatly benefited the University, its students, and state, in many many ways, tangible and intangible.

            For example, the later donations of that out of state group to UVA since 1960s has proved to be highly significant, and exponentially so over the years, not to mention the good will it has generated for the University.

            Another words, having a large following of well placed alumni is towns like Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, et al, this sort of good will and loyalty among alumni is a gift that keeps on giving in many many different ways.

            Plus, I know that many of those out of state Alums stayed in Virginia to live and thrive, and/or bought into the state many benefits that the state would otherwise not have realized, but for their attending the University of Virginia. This is how great universities are made, or surely how great universities have the best chance to be made, and grow ever stronger. And in so doing it brings great benefit not only to the state, but to in state graduates of UVA.

            Also, in our age of modern technology and communication and information, this revolution will only enhance these benefits of having at least 50% of UVA undergraduates being American citizens from out of state.

            Finally, such a policy will work overtime to greatly strengthen the other colleges and universities in Virginia who need and can greatly benefit from excellent in state students who otherwise would attend UVA. And there are several other colleges that would provide them the opportunity of a top tier education.

            So Let UVA be UVA. Give UVA all the advantages it needs to be as good as it can be, while still serving best the interests of the state.

        2. LarrytheG Avatar

          Totally on board with DJ’s comments.

          These days – just about everything is “rated” in some fashion on the internet, social media, even right on websites like Amazon.. where most
          zoom to those ratings before deciding to click on “buy”.

          so here… take a look:

          2019 College Rankings – Niche
          College rankings based on millions of student ratings and key statistics. Compare over 1000 top colleges and universities.

          Now… if you don’t like some ratings in particular – too bad – that’s free speech and if you want someone to “control” those ratings, shame, shame.

        3. You are very wrong about the Yale/U.Va. ratio between 1981 and 2018. I played football for W&M in the 80s. I got “recruited” (very different word back then than today) by W&M as well as Yale, Cornell, and Penn. I just had a daughter graduate from Yale. It doesn’t take anything more than an eyeball test to tell you how great the gap is between the Ivies and public schools now versus the 80s. When I went on visits to Yale, Cornell, and Penn in the 80s, they were “better” schools, but they were in the same general grouping as William & Mary. When we visited colleges in 2013 (and paid Yale from 2014-18), it was eye popping just how much better-resourced Yale and Penn were than U.Va. and W&M. Not even in the same universe. The kids in the Ivies have so many more opportunities and resources at their disposal than a kid at U.Va. or W&M.

          As Reed Fawell 3rd states, if you want U.Va. to move up the rankings, the formula is quite clear: take the in-state 30% cap off. If you went to U.Va. in 1977, more than likely close to half your class was out-of-state. If U.Va. went back to 50/50 in/out of state and got higher SAT scores and tuition revenues from more out-of-state kids, they would be able to crack the top 20 in the rankings. I imagine the same is true of my alma mater, William and Mary. Do you support admitting 50% out-of-state students to U.Va.?

          1. CREGUY raises a couple of interesting points. Yale just built two new residential colleges at a cost of about $650K per bed for 800 students (over $500M). In contrast, UVA built two new replacement dorms on Alderman Road not too long ago for 420 students for less than $100K per student bed. That kind of opulence is difficult for a public college to match, but I don’t think it is something a public college should be pursuing. (Still, you could say UVA’s Rotunda project was their equivalent of the Yale new colleges).

            Yale built their colleges almost entirely with (tax exempt) donations. (UVA’s were tax-exempt bond financed.) We have discussed tax exempt status for wealth schools and the Yale project is a good case to consider.

            I am torn on supporting out of state enrollment for UVA, but would probably support and would redirect state funds to other options. (I think the state is already more lenient for VMI.) I know a couple of the frequent posters are strongly opposed.

          2. virginiagal2 Avatar

            But the public universities ranked above UVA don’t admit a higher percentage of out of state students. Berkeley admits out of state in almost exactly the same percentage. The difference with Berkeley is the research strength, the appeal to an increasingly diverse student body, and the opportunities.

            At UVA, you’ve got the discretionary research fund for the first problem, and things like Tom Tom Go for the third. The middle one, appealing to students with different backgrounds and different interests than in the past, is a bit of a a work in progress, and that’s where UVA scored lower.

            Increasing out of state is fixing the wrong problem.

          3. djrippert Avatar

            Yes, as a lifelong Virginian and graduate of UVA I would support a 50/50 in state / out of state split in admissions for UVA. Why? Because UVA’s relevance to me and the Commonwealth of Virginia is overstated. It is not an elite engineering university. It is not in or very near a major metropolitan area. It’s efforts to operate a legitimate multi-campus configuration have been half-assed. Therefore, anything that reduces the need for state support of UVA increases the monies the state can spend on engineering and computer science programs at universities in or near Virginia’s urban locales.

            Take from UVA and W&M and give to George Mason, VCU and ODU. That would be in the best interests of Virginia.

  6. “UVa spends $22,690 per student, which looks pretty stingy compared to say, $117,990 at Yale

    I would argue that it is almost impossible to know how much is actually spent on an undergraduate. I think these numbers come from a government database called IPEDS (National Center for Education Statistics), and there appears to be a lot of leeway in how it can be calculated, which would perhaps explain why Yale can have 2X the “instruction” spending of Princeton. (The other common factor in high “instruction” spending seems to to be that the institution has a medical school/medical center, which I think is also of questionable value for undergraduate education.) Money that is actually spent on research can be counted as “instruction”, and it is highly likely that undergraduates also subsidize graduate students.

    Influential rankings like USNews (and this ranking) focus on resources (whether they are actually applied to undergraduates or not) rather than efficiency (doing more with less) or teaching quality or what is actually learned.

    I have a couple of other thoughts. There is a lot of focus on how much graduates make (and that is included in the government scorecard Larry referenced), but they can be very misleading because there are huge disparities based on major (e.g. engineering students make 1.6X as much as liberal arts majors to start), gender (at schools like Princeton, Williams, Stanford and Carnegie Mellon, male graduates earn at least 30% more than female ones on average), and other factors. If you are only interested in earnings, pay close attention to these factors. (I do not think earning potential should be sole factor, but I know lots of people think that way.)

    Last, I would have expected UVA to be rated lower in the WSJ ranking than in USNews because it groups national universities with liberal arts colleges like Williams. USNews keeps them separate.

  7. Student loan debt in the U.S. has hit $1.5 trillion. It would be useful to have some rough idea of what that massive indebtedness has actually funded. How much was to fund research, athletics, administration, etc.? Someone used a “tail wagging dog” analogy earlier, but there is also a “chasing own tail” one going on on this subject (just like healthcare).

    A new report says by 2023, nearly 40 percent of borrowers are expected to default on their student loans. Taxpayers are of course on the hook and we are reaching TARP bailout size territory. We have got to get real on these issues.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      What the comments of my friends here are missing is that the exploding costs of college today are driven by these college ratings. To get high ratings you are forced to play the very expensive games, driving up cost. We are paying dearly for this rating nonsense, in my view.

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    Well…geeze.. the polls and the rankings are not going to go away – and actually the bigger world consists of all kinds of folks who want more/better/higher ed than just kids whose parents have them on a college track and are worried about “brand” and debt….

    Maybe it comes from my own experience where I was not so fortunate to be a kid on a college track and ended up pursuing College after I had been working as a high school grad for a number of years. I was lucky enough to find an employer who would help pay tuition for College classes at a local Community College and then once I had spent a number of years accumulating credits, I went full time and then graduated. It was a long hike … but I learned a lot besides just academics…

    There are a LOT of folks out there in that boat who were never a kid on a college track with the parents guiding them…and obsessing over “rankings” and “debt”.

    So.. how relevant is this narrow focus in a world where there are lots of different kinds of folks in lots of different circumstances who also should and many are, pursuing a higher education?

    It seems to be a favorite complaint topic in this blog… seldom snaps my socks… lots of folks are lucky just to be able to find a local college and get that college degree on their own grit…

    1. djrippert Avatar

      Degrees have varying values whether snowflakes like it or not. Having spent decades managing operations where we recruited hundreds of new college graduates per year I can tell you that employers assign differing vales to various colleges and universities. In my experience the US News & World Report rankings pretty well match the prevailing sense of degree value held by corporate recruiters.

      UVA is a great place but I think its management has been mediocre over the past 10 to 20 years. They seem to be long on excuses and short on progress. In retrospect, Helen Dragas was probably right about President Sullivan’s fitness for the position she held.

  9. Rankings are inevitable. Nowhere was I arguing to silence rankings. I just hope that over time rankings will incorporate more on outcomes (loan repayment, satisfied students or employers, measures of learning, income), efficiency (performance vs. cost), and quality of teaching. The focus on ranking resources likely is a driver of spending that ultimately impacts student debt and defaults.

    Regarding paying closer attention to majors, my comment was really from a ranking consumer standpoint. The major decision may make more impact on future earnings than the institution, and differences between two institutions in future earnings may be better explained by the mix of majors than by a quality differences. https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/5rules/

  10. LarrytheG Avatar

    I’ve always felt that choice of College is like anything else we make choices about… you decide what is right for you… and you get on with it.. and don’t spend time dissing what you don’t like.

    We spend way too much time these days _itching about whatever we don’t like and precious little time focusing on optimism and a better path forward.

    It’s like we hate where we are – and someone has to be blamed for it…

  11. virginiagal2, admitting more out of state students would likely increase tuition revenue significantly. It may also raise standardized scores some. The increased tuition revenue could then be used to bolster financial aid resources, which would again help increase diversity and improve selectivity stats. That is essentially the private school model followed by Duke, or more recently by Michigan, which has made major improvements in its selectivity by going to close to 50% out of state.

    1. virginiagal2 Avatar

      I understand that. But UVA is not short of money, it has a very large endowment, and again, UVA is ranked higher than Michigan, not lower. Re finaid, UVA already has a commitment to full affordability for students with lower incomes. It’s not short of financial aid funds and there is a frequently stated public commitment that no student should be unable to attend for lack of funds.

      The problem with recruiting a more diverse group of students tends to be perception of how diverse and welcoming the school already is to those students, and perceived potential benefit of the degree and connections made during school.

      That last is also a limitation in attracting academic superstars. Schools with stronger research and more opportunities to jumpstart careers have advantages.

      The top public university in the county, hands down, is actual Berkeley. I talked recently to a teen who hopes to go there, from out of state. Very high quality candidate, very likely to get in to at least one Ivy, but her first choice is Berkeley. Her reasons are the overall strength of the school, the quality of the research being done there, its ability to prepare her for graduate school, and its strength in both science and liberal arts. She also likes that the school is diverse and not stuffy or pretentious.

      There are a bunch of very selective schools she isn’t applying to simply because she doesn’t like their atmosphere. Actual Berkeley appealed to this kid more than Harvard or Yale, because it felt more progressive and modern. This isn’t a radical kid, not especially political, from an upper middle class family, wants to do research in science, can afford to attend whatever school she wants, and has the grades and test scores to give her a lot of choice.

      I don’t think Berkeley is the turn-off Jim is assuming.

      1. One of the most amusing aspects of most posters on this and others boards is the idea that U.Va. has ever been in the same class as Berkeley or that even Cornell or Brown are in the same class as Berkeley. Simply b/c a magazine proclaimed it.

        Save Stanford and MIT, Berkeley is the top university in the states when it comes to the sciences. It’s definitely one of the top 5 engineering programs in America. But this is nothing new. It’s been true since the 1960s.

        Simply b/c some magazine takes resources per student and how much professors are paid (yes, that is part of the U.S. News formula in the Faculty Resources category) and other arbitrary factors does not mean that Vanderbilt (snicker) is “better” than Berkeley as an institution. If you were to go to Beijing or London, how many people in top scientific labs or engineering firms have even heard of Vanderbilt? I’d guarantee all have heard of Berkeley.

        All of this nonsense b/c Berkeley takes a few kids (as a public university should) from less advantaged parts of California that might not have 1400+ SATs and a 4.5 GPA from a prep school which Vandy stacks the entire class with. And a Berkeley prof might earn $10K less than a counterpart at Vandy. But some will keep deluding themselves that Vandy is a “better” school than Berkeley b/c of the U.S. News rankings.

        1. CREGUY, I agree that Berkeley crushes all Virginia schools in engineering and science and also in medicine if you consider it in combination with nearby UC San Francisco. Furthermore, along with Stanford, it has a huge impact on economic growth in the area, which is something Virginia lacks. The one weakness I see there is lack of focus on undergraduate education due to the research and graduate focus.

      2. virginiagal2, I would agree that UVA is not short of money in the sense that I believe it has more than enough money to do a good job of educating its students (assuming the money isn’t wasted). But in the USNews “game”, UVA’s financial resources are not competitive with the schools it is trying to gain on in rankings. UVA was ranked 55th in financial resources in the last rankings, well behind top privates and a number of publics.

        I mentioned Michigan specifically because they have done what Reed proposed (moving to about 50% out of state), and their selectivity stats have gone up (and appear to be a bit higher than UVA now). So it was a statement more on direction vs current ranking.

        I would agree that Berkeley is a formidable school, particularly in engineering and sciences, but I have to say my experience with the UC schools is they are very indifferent to undergraduates for the most part. They are much more focused on graduates and research. I would say research is often a detriment to undergraduate study.

        1. Agreed on all points Izzo.

        2. virginiagal2 Avatar

          UVAs endowment is at 8.6 billion, which is in the top twenty nationally in every ranking I can find. I’m not disputing you, but could you please provide a link to what criteria is being used that shows UVA is 55th? I can’t figure out what they would be measuring.

          When I say they are financially adequate, I’m simply noting that per the information they send me, they are currently providing financial aid at a level that insures that financial status doesn’t prevent a student from attending, up to and including a free ride. If you are meeting demonstrated need, then by definition you have adequate funds to meet demonstrated need.

          The impression I have is that the discretionary funds are being used very specifically to target areas important to doing significant research, and areas that directly improve the career prospects of students. A good example of this would be big data and data analysis, which includes techniques that can be applied to a large number of fields and which provides a demonstrable career boost for a wide variety of majors.

          To me, that is something that makes a school more desirable for highly qualified and ambitious students. Virginia has some absolutely outstanding high school students, and being able to compete for them successfully is one way to move up in the rankings.

          1. virginiagal2 USNews pulls from government data on expenditures. So does WSJ. (Jim above cites UVA ranked 192 or so in resources in the WSJ report). The source usually used is the National Center for Educational Resources. https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/

            You can see there is typically a large disparity between public and privates. I would argue that the totals shown in “Instruction” often have little to do with instruction, but don’t have the time to recapitulate. I’m sure there were earlier threads.

            UVA’s endowment, while large, is a relatively small percentage of revenue compared to schools like Princeton, and is spread across many more students. I suspect a sizeable chunk of it is also associated with the medical center/school (although perhaps the strategic investment fund has somehow moved it over to the academic division).

          2. virginiagal2 Avatar

            Right, but my point is, best I can determine, resources in the sense of WSJ is defined as per pupil expenditures, not in the sense of available resources.

            So increasing out of state students doesn’t increase financial resources by that definition. It’s not an income based measure. It’s a spending measure if I’m reading this correctly. Increasing per pupil expenditures is how you increase the score for resources by these definitions.

            The UVA endowment is in the top twenty; although smaller than Princeton, it’s quite respectable.

            An endowment is not part of revenue, although it’s a major part of what we would normally define as available resources.

          3. Virginiagal2, Jim has done several posts that show that out of state students produce more revenue for universities than in state, and actually pay more than their cost of attendance (i.e. they subsidize the enterprise).

            The resource measurement is a simple mathematical exercise. They are taking the IPEDs per student data. Instruction in IPEDs includes things like research, though, and isn’t really an estimate of instruction spending as we might understand it.

            UVA endowment is top 20, but it is spread across 24K students and a medical center. Princeton’s endowment is 3X large and covers only 1/3 the number of students and does not have to support a medical school/center (if I recall correctly, about 30% or so of UVA’s endowment is in support of medical, which has very few students.). Princeton is an extreme case, but schools like W&L and Richmond are also significantly higher on a per student basis. Endowment distributions are part of income/budget and you can see it on the UVA budget site.

            What I describe above speaks to how the ratings game plays out (and why public schools generally get pushed down). In reality, I think UVA’s revenue is more than enough per student to provide a good education if it is used wisely. The amount cited for Yale in Jim’s article is obscene, and a lot of it probably has nothing to do with actual quality of undergraduate education.

          4. virginiagal2 Avatar

            I’m familiar with IPEDS. I’m also well aware that out of state students typically more than cover the cost of their education. I’m probably not making my points clearly, because neither of those refute my points.

            One, resources as used in the measurement are not a high percentage of overall score. It’s around ten percent. Two, UVAs main weaknesses are not resources. If you want UVA to move up in the ratings, a small improvement in a small component like resources is going to produce much less overall score improvement than focusing on things that are relatively weak and are a higher percentage of overall scores.

            Improving resources is also going to be relatively costly as it literally looks at dollars spent. There’s no room in that measure for more bang for your buck efficiency by doing things well and creatively.

            Endowments do not work on a per student basis. Typically endowments are used for overall university purposes. They are not typically used for day to day operations. An initiative to provide a focus on resources for data science and analysis, for example, is not going to have a linear increase for more students. It’s also going to cross schools and provide benefits for most fields.

            You have an initial cost that’s a high percentage of total costs for a lot of these things. They’re usually not per student costs. It can increase for more students, but not even close to linearly. So more students aren’t necessarily a big constraint on an endowment, depending on what they are doing with it.

          5. Virginiagal2, there are a number of points in this discussion and if they are not addressed in isolation it will be difficult to keep them clear. First, as I said, I think UVA and similar schools likely have more than sufficient funding to provide a good education to its students IF the funds are used appropriately (and that is a big if in higher ed). By implication, then, I think schools that are spending more are 1) gilding the lily (Yale’s opulent new colleges from tax-exempt donations) and/or 2) reporting expenditures on education “instruction” that are actually being used on different purposes like research (Yale’s $150K per student “Instruction”).

            Second, regarding the ratings game, I think you are understating the impact of resources. If you look at USNews (or at least the way USNews was constructed before including social mobility/Pell Grants), you will see that ranking is highly correlated with financial resources (IPEDS) and endowment per student. You point out that resources are only 10% of the ranking, but the key point is it impacts other metrics as well, such as faculty resources (20%) and student selectivity (12.5%). Jim wrote a day or so ago about Washington & Lee and how it now has somewhat higher SATs than UVA. One way that W&L got there is to use its large endowment and other revenue sources to fund merit scholarships for high stat kids for at least 10% of the incoming class. Jefferson Scholarships at UVA only are awarded to 1% of first year students. If you look at private schools that have risen in the ranking (Duke, Vanderbilt, etc.), they have done so with similar strategies.

            I mention this correlation because it makes it more difficult for public schools, even UVA, to move up. They don’t have as many levers to pull. But there is a major change in USNews this year. They are including things like percentage of students receiving Pell grants and their graduation rates. This explains why the University of California schools have gone up (and why UCLA ranks above Berkeley). The UC schools have over 40% of students getting Pell Grants and have good graduation rates. In contrast, UVA has an excellent graduation rate, but only 12% of students getting Pell Grants (W&M is similar).

          6. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            The essential problem here, I believe, is cultural. Our elite universities today are designed intentionally to divert its resources away from teaching students in classroom, and they refuse to enforce learning thought testing, or consequences for poor student performance. The intention is to divert resources to research. It’s often said that there exists today a treaty between students and faculty. Each leave the other alone, so as to meet the needs and desires of both. I suspect that not more that 10% of school resources go toward real time teaching in and out of classrooms.

            And we know from earlier discussions here, the long time efforts have been made and continue on the universities part to disguise the truth of what is going on. Hence, for example the false accounting practices.

          7. I agree Reed. Haner put it pretty succinctly at the beginning. There is a lot of noise around rankings, but by and large they provide no insight into the quality of teaching, what is actually learned, and the reasonableness and predictability of the price.

          8. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            Here is a pertinent comment to this discussing that is copied in from a comment I made to a January 21, 2016 post by Jim entitled Slaying the Debt Dragon – or Feeding the Beast:

            “TMT referenced An interesting article about Louisiana’s system of colleges & universities; two much duplication of programs; and, believe it or not, too much central overhead.


            RMF 3rd said:

            You reference an excellent article. It’s required reading for anyone seriously interested in the scam called “higher education” in America today.

            It helps to show how far too many of our current institutions have lost their mission to educate students. How we’ve replaced that mission with a system that far too often wastes the precious time, talents, energy, aspirations, opportunities, financial resources of our students while it steals from them the chance for an education they desperately needed to succeed.

            And it casts a bright light on how this corrupt system works by illustrating that even strong efforts to cut its costs does ever greater harm to the already abused students while its protects and enhances the wealth and security of those scamming the students they’re bound as fiduciaries to serve.

            Here we speak of the college administrators and elite members of the Academy, the tenured professors, and their parasitic functionaries who live off the fat of today’s system of “higher education”, collecting high pay for very little work and almost no results at dysfunctional institutions that today perpetrate a vast hoax on generations of young Americans.

            Remarkably, this corrupt system is increasingly funded and enabled by our Federal Government via its public funding of loans or grants or its underwriting of private ones that serve to feed ignorance and bad habits to our nation’s young, killing their future while their teachers claim it an education.

            There are many aspects of this problem. One is the ever growing cost of elite universities. Every year these institutions teach ever more ignorance to many of the brightest kids on the planet, the kids who often succeed because of their God given talents, and do so despite their education, and because at graduation they receive a jump to the front the line not because of what they learned at their elite university, but because they got into it in the first place. After all grades are meaningless when all are inflated to absurdity.

            But the greatest scam is the one imposed on so many less talented students such as those “accepted or recruited” into those many institutions of higher learning in Louisiana where the goal is simply to fill up seats and keep students sitting there pretending to learn while going deeper in dept, when they should be somewhere else learning a trade or skill or work ethic and confidence necessary to not only survive but to thrive as productive fulfilled adults.

            Not long ago C’ville Resident on this blog pointed out the a student graduating from UVA, Virginia Tech, or William and Mary made a good investment by going there despite ever rising costs because their earning potential after graduation from there justified their time and cost.

            Likely this is often true, but too often is it by reason of the talent it took to get in, not the quality of the education they received there. I went to UVA when as I recall it was ranked to 11 nationally. Save two one semester courses, I learned next to nothing in class save for far too much nonsense. The advantages at UVA for me were the students I met there, and the reputation I carried away by virtue of the fact I had attended. So it was worth the cost for me.

            The great problem is that very few students nationally have the chance to attend Colleges and Universities with the reputations of UVA, W&M, and Va. Tech. And they don’t get any education either. Nor a reputation worth a plug nickel as a college graduate of where they went, or of friendships made. Nor in far too many cases on graduation they lack the necessary facility with writing, spelling, math, verbal expression, social skills or work and employ skills to find job. Then all they have is no job worth having plus 4-7 years on average of wasting the most critical time of their young adult lives, plus heavy dept load to pay off, and no useful skills when high skills are critically needed to get a start, and succeed, in today’s economy. In the young, such an experience can shatter one’s hope and confidence beyond repair.

  12. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    I think the important distinction one makes in this discussion is how one values education, in its various parts. I look at hard science, tech and engineering as off in its separate, distinct and important place from undergraduate arts and science with an emphasis on the liberal arts. The latter is what I am after, without disparaging the former. And the latter is where in my view we are grievously failing our students, and indeed tearing our culture and society apart. I think this is where UVA and others can really excel and compete with the Ivies, and anyone else, and thrive doing it. Perhaps its a contrarian view, but it should not be, in my opinion.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      PS –

      My point above highlights another horrible flaw in our ranking systems. We don’t know how, and perhaps never will mathematically, how to judge and score a really top liberal arts program, what kids need to know to make them highly competent human beings so they can excel in law, and politics, and in life generally, being highly competent, informed, well rounded and balanced citizens and human beings, knowing who they are and what is meaningful in life generally, and their own in particular.

      If I am right then our rating system is terribly misleading in that whole whelm of education. It is often sending kids off in the wrong direction, measuring the wrong competencies for much of our population, and failing to judge and grade a large segment of what education is all about or should be for many people.

      So I can agree that the rating systems work and are useful to hard sciences, engineering, and computers, and high tech, but what about all the rest?

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        This in the essence of why our college and university rating systems do so much harm to modern education. They twist our educational system far out of shape, and dislocate terribly our resources, whether they be time, money, or indeed how we judge and value education, and our choices in life. Hence the deterioration of our culture on so many essential levels.

        1. RF3,

          Agreed. It is silly the way that some put so much emphasis on “rankings” when it comes to schools like U.Va. and W&M.

          If I were to give you an appraisal, here’s what I’d suggest:

          Of the Ivies, I’d say you’re likely to get the best liberal arts experience from Princeton.

          Of the public Ivies, I’d put U.Va. & W&M & UNC in a tie for 1st. Those 3 are better than the UC schools and Michigan when it comes to liberal arts.

          Saying that…if you’re looking for “brand” rather than actual educational experience, there’s no doubt that Harvard has the strongest “brand” of the Ivies and Berkeley has the strongest “brand” of the public Ivies (though I would note this…as much as athletics seem ridiculous in this conversation, the truth is that UNC’s basketball team is known across the globe. “Carolina Blue” really is a brand even in far flung locales such as Germany and China).

          1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd


            I agree with your scoring of the “Brands.”

            But, unless you are into guys like Cornel West, I fear those brands and their post modern bunk have all but destroyed the Liberal Arts in America.

            Unfortunately, our academy in the liberal arts considers their primary obligation to preserve and enhance western civilization “now outdated and old fashioned.” Instead the majority of our liberal arts professors have gone on a jihad against Western Civilization, and have quite successfully destroyed much of our history, culture, and traditions built up over the past 3,000 years.

            The organized carnage has been ongoing with increasing ferocity since the late 1960s. It’s been done with such blind fury that most professors along the way failed to realize that they were destroying their own livelihood. Hence, the power and prestige of the liberal arts within the modern university has plummeted. And now verges on extinction.

            Most tenured and tenure track professors in the top universities today hardly teach any students at all any more. Teaching students is below their standing and dignity. It’s bad for their reputation, status, and pay grade in their university and the academy at large.

            Hence, more and more kids at the “best” schools are taught by underpaid, overworked, insecure graduate and post students, and contract adjunct professors, and those other young professors desperately seeking tenure, so they are afraid to hand out real grades and demand that their students do any academic work at all.

            This sad tale and its consequences have been a long term fear and concern of many distinguished leaders in higher education. This includes presidents, deans and distinguished professors from virtually all of the Ivies and most selective colleges down the list. They are people in the academy with a memory and conscience.

            And, I agree with you regarding UVA. A surprisingly large number of these liberal arts heroes fighting their last stand teach now or use to at UVA. I know this because I read their books and articles.

            I also agree with you regarding Carolina Blue!

            Two married Tar Heal friends of mine who live in DC bought a second home in Chapel Hill so they and DC Tar Heal friends could feed their addiction to Carolina Blue football, basketball and Lacrosse. Their home away from home is just off the campus and includes endless Carolina Blue sports posters on the walls and garage parked motorcycle. These Tar Heal junkies who graduated in the 1960s are otherwise sane, when not in Chapel Hill.

            Hopefully we can export All this Carolina Blue insanity to China. Mess with education of all the Chinese college students that way, too.

    2. virginiagal2 Avatar

      I actually don’t think that hard science, tech, and engineering are off on their own separate island. I don’t think they should be, either. Undergraduate arts and sciences students need to understand the technology we use today.

      A surprising number of people working in tech, as technologists, have an undergraduate degree in the arts and sciences. Sometimes it’s part of a double major, sometimes they went back for another degree, sometimes they started as enthusiasts and turned it into a career. I’ve worked with all of the above, including people in all of the above categories with UVA arts and sciences degrees.

      Lawyers get a tremendous career boost from understanding technology. Marketing people use big data and computer technology daily. Journalists greatly benefit from understanding the technologies they write about. Many undergraduates hope to start their own companies, and having a broad education while understanding technology is ideal.

      This is something I’m really passionate about. Exposure to the liberal arts and sciences is important, and so is understanding technology.

    3. Reed, good points regarding liberal arts. A lot of schools are effectively raiding liberal arts to fund STEM.

      30 years ago we had the “Closing of the American Mind” and now we have the “Coddling of the American Mind”. Not a good trajectory.

  13. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    I agree with you, as far as you go, virginiagal2, but its more complicated than that. For example, from an earlier post:

    “Thirdly, research should not be allowed to impair education in the slightest. Now it impairs education grievously in most first tier universities. That too is an immoral disgrace. Not because research is bad. In fact it is critically important. But because our corrupt character as humans allow research to eat education of students alive in most of our elite universities today.

    Lets put some flesh on the bare bones of my above assertion.

    As well documented on this blog, today’s tragedy in elite higher education hangs between two central pillars of dysfunction – research and teaching. Today’s system of higher education forces research to war against teaching. As a result, the great bulk of money raised by, and spend on, our elite public universities fail to benefit the education of their students. Hence much of the vast sums of money ponied up by students, their parents, and taxpayers is wasted or at best spent in highly ineffective and unfair ways.

    As a direct consequence, Higher Education fails to educate the vast majority of elite students, whether it be in terms of any verifiable results, and/or in improving the quality of the teaching they receive in the classroom, and/or in the amount of time that highly competent teachers devote to teaching them, and/or to increasing the quality and substance of the subject matter being taught students.

    In short, what elite Virginia education needs is better teachers empowered and committed to spending vastly more of their time and resources to personally teaching great and rigorous courses to willing and able students under a teaching regime where excellence is demanded on the part of teachers and students. And where results are verified. And consequences are rendered for failure.

    Why these failures in educating the great majority of our elite students? And why is it that the more money we spend, the less education most our elite students get? Again it is the war between teaching and research.

    Research inflates the status of professors. It drives up their pay, reputation, security and tenure. Thanks to ill-conceived rankings based on false values, this research also drives up the status and prestige of their university. This drives professors and universities to do ever more research, irrespective of the quality of its outcome, and to do ever less teaching that drives down their status, power, and salary.

    These powerful forces, working in combination, also breed junk research that undermines good science. And it forces universities to subsidize out of its own pocket ever more research. Since the cost of most research far exceeds the revenues it generates, this drives up the cost of tuition, while it drives down the quality of the teaching of students as the university diverts their tuition monies from paying teachers to paying research costs for ever more equipment, labs or researchers salaries. This is a death spiral. It forces costs ever higher. Meanwhile it drains ever more funds away from teaching. And the adverse consequences are cumulative, spiraling outward. For example, the death spiral forces ever more students to saddle themselves with ever more debt to feed the beast they keep trying to ride to get a degree whose value declines year by year. These death spirals always end in the collapse of the system. Why? Because the system operates on a lie. It is a Ponzi scheme. The lie is the asserting that elite students are paying these high and ever rising tuition costs in return of their own world class education.

    While is this a lie? Where is the proof. Consider this contrast professors:

    Teaching deflates the status of professors. Teaching drives down their pay, reputation, security and tenure. And, as tenure and tenure track professors at elite institutions flee teaching for research, the elite universities are forced to hire more and more low wage and low benefit, short-term teachers to teach ever more students in ever fewer classrooms, for cost efficiencies at the expense of learning. This forces these low wage low security teachers into a nomadic existence, often traveling between universities weekly, to earn enough to live on.

    This also puts these teachers increasingly at the mercy of student evaluations. Grades inflate and junk courses spread as demands for study, testing and learning all plummet. And, as tenured and tenured track professors flee the elite classrooms, entertainment venues spread throughout the classrooms and campuses of elite universities to fill the vast gaps of empty time that open in the students’ day, given the lack of serious resources and energy and demands then devoted to teaching. Here we see binge drinking, partying and sex hook ups, and students plunging into virtual realities. This breeds bad lifestyles in students, causing them harms of all kinds, damage done to them at universities that can easily last a lifetime, as our universities strip their students of their culture, education and character.

    Thus, the harm spreads and compounds as research and teaching war with one another. And, all involved suffer, save for the few elite who run this system at the expense of everyone else as costs go through the roof to keep this Ponzi scheme running to enrich those few rulers.

    But why should we be surprised. Institutions and the people who run them without accountability can never be trusted. This is particularly true for people who act in secret while they refuse to be held accountable.

    SEE https://www.baconsrebellion.com/making-case-higher-ed-investment/

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