With high school seniors already beginning to submit their application for admission to college, this a propitious time to take a closer look at what factors play a role in their choices. Sad to say, students are obsessed with rankings, scrutinizing lists as if they were gospel. The latest Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education report is a case in point. It provide a particularly distorted picture, despite its cachet (“The Colleges Whose Graduates Do Best Financially,” The Wall Street Journal, Sep. 27).
The rankings report makes no bones about giving disproportionate weight to the economic value of a bachelor’s degree. Since that’s the case, schools whose graduates opt for a career in teaching, for example, will receive a lower ranking than those whose graduates go into Wall Street, for example. That’s one reason I have little regard for such reports. I’m aware of student debt and the need to get a well-paying job immediately after graduation to pay off such loans. But higher education is supposed to be more than preparation for a job.
I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1950s and from UCLA in the mid 1960s. The reputation of both schools opened several lucrative doors for me. But I ultimately chose to make a career in public school teaching. I never regretted it. However, if far more Penn graduates followed in my footprints, the university’s overall ranking at No. 8 would be much lower. It’s a sad commentary that evaluating higher education has been reduced to the size of its graduates’ paychecks.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.