Rankings aren't everything

President: The numbers can't account for higher ed's mission

College ranking systems cannot fully account for or capture a college's mission, argues Misericordia University President Thomas Botzman in a piece for Education News.

Forbes recently released its ninth annual list of "America's Top Colleges," in which analysts calculated letter grades for schools based on financial well-being.

Misericordia earned a B-.

While this may not seem like a high grade, Botzman says that if you look a little deeper, the grade reflects the school's mission to serve first-generation and underrepresented students.

"In its effort to rank and grade, Forbes makes some reasonable assumptions and a few that do not meet the test of what I believe to be essential to the mission, vision, and values of most private universities," Botzman writes.

Related article: Help first-generation students navigate your college's "hidden curriculum"

Forbes awarded the top grade in terms of endowments to Princeton University, which has $2.5 million per student. Misericordia, meanwhile, does not.

"Frankly, unlike Ivy League institutions, we are primarily designed and driven to serve those without many resources to attend college," Botzman writes. "Rather than building an enormous reserve, we return the resources we receive from students and families to support outstanding faculty, and quality academic and residential facilities."

Additionally, Forbes awards higher grades to schools that limit financial aid, particularly merit-based aid. According to the rankings, merit-based aid should be awarded to 38% or less of a school's students.  

Misericordia awards aid to 98% of its students.

But "private higher education—much like our public counterparts—is not all about a balance sheet," Botzman says.

"We enroll first-generation college students, adult learners, and many others who do not have every financial resource available to them. We will always strive to provide capable students with the resources they need—and have earned—to complete their college degrees," Botzman writes (Botzman, Education News, 8/4).

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