October 29, 2007
1st Place is Just the Case in Ohio for Case Western
We reached the top and had to stop, and that’s what’s bothering me.
Once again Case Western Reserve University is the top ranked university in Ohio according to U.S. News & World Report. Being ranked as 41st nation-wide, Case is the only Ohio institution in the top 50 out of 258 universities.
"I am proud that Case Western Reserve University remains the highest ranked national university in our state, but it is important to recognize that our quality is best evaluated through the success of our students and the continued commitment of our faculty to excellence in teaching, research and scholarship for the university and for our region."
-Barbara R. Snyder, university president
August 25, 2005
[Singham is a professor here at Case who blogs really regularly -- almost daily. Bookmark him! Better yet, sign up for an RSS news reader (I use CNET's Newsburst) and add him as a source.]
My take? College rankings are a great source of information. They are great for comparing universities on various parameters. They are a great way to find colleges you might not have heard of.
But as always, always, always -- Read critically. Look at the fine print and see what those rankings really mean.
Just because a school is number one, doesn't mean it's for you.
I went to Allegheny College. (#88 among liberal arts colleges this year). My husband went to University of Pittsburgh (#58 among national universities this year). In raw numbers, it might look like he did better than me, but how do you really measure that? What does that really mean later in life?
At the time, I appreciated Allegheny's small classes, quaint environment, personal attention from tenured faculty, and opportunities to participate in all sorts of activities. I was an English major, but that didn't stop me from starring in a play or getting a small role in an opera. I still struggle with stage fright, but I appreciate that I was nurtured and encouraged to step outside my comfort zone.
I think my husband would have shriveled up and died in a small town like Meadville, but he'll probably admit that Pitt offered too many opportunities to party and not enough incentives to buckle down and learn. I don't think he was really challenged, and I think he'd do something different if he had it to do over again.
So that's my personal perspective on college rankings. I have some professional thoughts, but we'll save that for later. Maybe.