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Recently the president of Gettysburg college, Janet Morgan Riggs, wrote an editorial for the Huffington Post. The subject: Obama’s inclusion of income as an instrument in ranking colleges & universities for the purpose of funding. This is a topic of debate within the higher education community – some believe it an important instrument while others argue it could unfairly punish schools by essentially penalizing success in public service and non profits. Below are a few of my thoughts (left as a comment on the article):

Some students want to make a lot of money, some do not. The bang-for-your-buck ranking style is great for students who emphasize income but this is only a fraction of students. For others,income can be quite misleading.

To say that differences among schools’ commitment to service will even out is ridiculous. The same could be said of income: all schools want graduates to have high incomes (and thereby more opportunity to give back) so concentrating on service is a better indication of quality. The real challenge here is that schools perform many functions tin order to meet the wide variety of needs of incoming students.

Perhaps rankings should forgo these highly subjective instruments of quality altogether. Rather, rankings could focus on more concrete and universal instruments. Graduation and transfer rates generally speak to higher quality, and these are already used successfully. Same with placement: the percentage of students obtaining jobs, admission to advanced degree programs, and service programs in 6 months (or other time increments) examines whether students are successful after graduation, regardless of their preferred endeavor. Alumni ratings also provide another opportunity – participation, donation rate (not quantity), satisfaction surveys, etc.

Ultimately, we are trying to determine a way to decide if a school is worth attending. Unless income can be categorically separated between those who prioritize income and those who do not, income is a poor measure of success and more applicable and robust measures should determine what funding schools receive.