Campus rankings may not be legit

Story by Spencer Brown, Assistant News Editor

In recent years, it seems as if Baker University has won every award except for one that distinguishes it as “The Best University Ever.” Students believe this and promote it in every way possible because these national honors help to strengthen our case.

What ultimately lies behind the validity of these rankings? With so many opinions and rankings out there, some small in-depth research helped to better understand these guidelines and see the impact they may have on the university moving forward.

Best Value School

The most recent national award came in June 2017, where the University Research and Review gave Baker the “Best Value School” award.

According to the Best Value College website, the goal of the site and award is to provide high school students with the ability to research institutions and find colleges that provide a valuable education, based on academics, student satisfaction and affordability. The organization recognizes these three characteristics as being the driving factors behind institution and overall student success.

With former university presidents and company CEOs leading the selection committee, universities are chosen based on the value they can provide students with. Schools can be nominated, but they are ultimately evaluated based on the balanced atmosphere that allows students to succeed.

This award particularly focuses on the small size of Baker University, noting that small schools deserve “recognition” too. As one of only 80 schools to receive the award for 2017, Baker may strengthen its case within the small school market.

U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges

In 2016, Baker received the top spot in the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges report within the Midwest Regional University rankings. At forty-seventh overall within the region, this gave Baker the designation as the number one private school in the state of Kansas.

According to the U.S. News website, the ranking is based off of 15 academic indicators, each weighted based on the firm’s judgment of importance. The data for these scores come directly from the institutions, as well as other nationally-known sources such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Institutions’ scores are then compared against others within their region to provide the final ranking.

Some critics, however, do not give much credit to the rankings of the U.S. News & World Report, saying that you cannot account for everything that an institution has to offer simply based on its statistics. Students cannot fully understand the benefit of an institution unless they experience the campus atmosphere and other college-life based attributes.

Top-50 Ranking

In its first-ever release, The Economist’s college ranking system named Baker University number 49 among 1,275 universities across the nation in 2015. This award, different from the others, assesses the economic value that Baker brings for its graduates.

At the head of this designation, however, was the concept of estimation, as the model attempted to approximate “how much [students] might have made had they studied elsewhere” versus how much they earn on average after graduation. This provided The Economist with scores for many universities, ultimately allowing them to be ranked based on the difference between the two values.

Because many high school students choose a school based on its ability to set them up for a lifetime of success, this ranking from The Economist supported the emphasis that Baker has on its capacity to get students into both graduate programs and jobs within only months after graduation.

So what?

What these awards certainly do is create the sense of superiority that Baker University has within the small, Midwest, liberal arts school marketplace. It provides current students with the support they need to know that Baker is setting them up for success and demonstrates to current high school students that Baker is a strong, nationally- recognized school.

Today, awards help supplement the attributes that are currently leading students to finding the best college or university for them. No matter if they provide completely new information or build on previously emphasized characteristics, these accolades help to promote the well-roundedness that Baker University offers within the college marketplace.