Opinion

U.S. News Rankings Should Motivate Change and Celebration

By DUSTIN NILES

Layout & Design Editor

There’s a certain division of the human population that believes that millennials have problems achieving because they were given participation trophies. The boundary between winners and losers were cut like a celebratory ribbon and suddenly everyone got a trophy. Even if you were last, you won.

Where is the drive to get better if you always get a trophy? Do the spoils of true victory get lost when everyone is enjoying them? Do the standards that people hold themselves to drop?

It’s impossible to say that none of these things will happen. In fact, they’re even likely, especially when taken out of the context of a children’s soccer game.

That’s why it was uncomfortable to read the subtitle of FDU’s news article currently parked on its home page.

“FDU named as a top ranked regional university, a top college for veterans, and a best value school!” the news blurb says.

But when you click the link above to view the U.S. News & World Report rankings, they tell a vastly different story.

FDU is ranked 64th (tie) for Regional Universities – North out of 196 schools.

U.S. News says, “National Universities offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and doctoral programs, and emphasize faculty research. National Liberal Arts Colleges focus almost exclusively on undergraduate education. They award at least 50 percent of their degrees in the arts and sciences.”

This category does not include larger national universities, including schools like Columbia, Dartmouth, Princeton, Harvard, NYU, Boston College and Rutgers – New Brunswick.

“Regional Universities offer a broad scope of undergraduate degrees and some master’s degree programs but few, if any, doctoral programs,” it continues. “Regional Colleges focus on undergraduate education but grant fewer than 50 percent of their degrees in liberal arts disciplines; this category also includes schools that have small bachelor’s degree programs but primarily grant two-year associate degrees.”

This is the category FDU falls in. The “north” part of Regional Universities – North means that only schools northeast of and including Maryland are on the list.

Local schools like TCNJ (#4), Quinnipiac (#13), Manhattan College (#15), Monmouth (#28), Rider (#34) and Ramapo (#37) were all ranked higher than FDU on the same list.

FDU is ranked 36th (tie) for the Best Colleges for Veterans on a list of 50 North Regional Universities and 22nd for Best Value Schools on a list of 84 North Regional Universities according to U.S. News.

There’s no problem with these rankings. They’re a great achievement for FDU and we should be proud of the effort put forward by this institution to provide an educational college experience for its students.

But we reached this point as a university through frank and honest conversations throughout the years about how this university could better serve its students. And there’s a problem with resting on our laurels.

While FDU has achieved a tremendous amount of progress in serving its students, it also has a tremendous way to go – and it shows in the rankings.

Placing 64th out of 196 smaller regional universities does not constitute “top.” A top ten ranking or top 25 ranking, perhaps. But a ranking of 64th is low enough to beg the question: when do we stop calling ourselves “top?” When does the ranking constitute a need to improve?

It’s also true that college rankings don’t necessarily mean anything. It’s all a panel’s opinion. But the U.S. News rankings are used by many prospective students as a tool to decide what university to go to. And if FDU trusts them enough to advertise them on their front page, then they must be legitimate in the eyes of our administration.

64th is not “top.” But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s a chance for us to look inside our institution and attack with a renewed focus the issues that might prevent us from better serving our students and perhaps prevent us from a higher ranking. We shouldn’t be looking to improve our school just to earn a higher rating. We should improve our school because we know that we can and because, in order to be proud of FDU, we need to be active in making it the best school it can be.

Categories: Opinion