Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Former State Representative Brod 

praises Top 3 goal 

in interview for University of Minnesota

 Board of Regents Seat

Former state Rep. Laura Brod, a Republican, began her interview with a bold statement: The University of Minnesota's goal to be one of the top three public research universities in the country is "absolutely fantastic and attainable."

From a commenter on this post:

For starters, let's talk about what we'd be looking at to accomplish this goal.

The U is currently barely within the top 25 public universities under the US News rankings, the system (for better or worse) that almost everybody references.

So you'd be looking at jumping at least 20 rankings to become one of the top three. Do you know what the movement in those rankings has been, historically? Berkeley, UCLA, UVA and Michigan have pretty much been the top 4 since the rankings' inception a couple decades ago. In fact, the U is now half-a-decade into this "top three" plan and the U's overall ranking actually went down from last year to this year (from 61st overall to 64th). So good luck on making the "top three," particularly within the next 5 years as Bruininks plan promised.

What are some of the factors that influence the rankings?

One is 4-year graduation rate. UVA's 4-year graduation rate is around 75%. The U's is under 50%.

Another is student caliber. By the U's own comparison with "peer universities" it ranks at or near the bottom in median SAT/ACT scores, % of students in the top 10% of their class, etc. And these peer universities are a mix of the current top 10 publics and some outside it (e.g., Texas, OSU, etc.). 

Absent significantly cutting back on admissions, it's hard to see how the U could get a student caliber ranking to match the likes of UVA, Berkeley (where almost 99% of undergrads were in the top 10% of their high school graduation class), etc.

A large chunk of the ranking is based on reputation. Here there is little the U can do. It's not based on numbers, although having a large number of faculty members in the NAS can help (and here the U is far, far below the current "top three"). For the most part it's based on long-entrenched reputations for excellence that are difficult to shake or to overcome. The people filling out these forms have often stated that they aren't really qualified to making yearly assessments of which university is the "best," which only further entrenches the existing powers. Berkeley and UCLA will always be Berkeley and UCLA.

Just as Harvard and Yale will always be Harvard and Yale. The U is a fine university, and if this "top three" nonsense wasn't shaping spending in harmful ways it would simply be silly rather than silly and harmful. But in the pursuit of this goal, the administration has engaged in unnecessary campus construction and radically expanded the bureaucracy while raising resident tuition, dramatically lowering non-resident tuition, and gutting departments and programs that fulfill the educational mission of the university.

I couldn't have said it better...


1 comment:

Michael W. McNabb said...

Even as she applies to be appointed as a Regent, Laura Brod is not paying attention to current developments on the march to "the top three public research universities in the world." President Bruininks has joined the ranks of the "doubters" about that illusory goal; now the University is aiming to be in the top three land grant universities in the nation. See http://ptable.blogspot.com/2010/12/university-of-minnesota-president.html#links.