Binghamton University’s national ranking was recently released by U.S. News & World Report and Kiplinger, and reported in the Oct. 2 issue of Pipe Dream. The topic may be less than prominent in the minds of college students who have already passed through the hell of undergraduate admissions. But we have invested our time and money into Binghamton, which means we are in a position to speak up about our experiences. We are the evidence of our commitment to the school, which means prospective freshman should look to us, not magazine editors, for a true measure of Binghamton’s excellence.
What does it mean that BU improved from 90th to 89th in U.S. News & World Report’s “Top National Universities” list over the past year? Are we slightly better due to the marginal difference?
It mostly depends on how you define college rankings, which criteria matter and what is plugged into the equation. Moreover, if you were to create your own calculation, would its equation mirror that of the U.S. News & World Report and Kiplinger?
Not all schools are created equal, and neither are the reasons for attendance. There is an extensive range of variables to weigh when determining the “right” school, such as tuition costs, missions and sizes. Some students want the “best” academic reputation — presumably one that is selective — while others are interested in the campus social life. Maybe you care more about the facilities and resources available to students rather than the percentage of faculty members holding terminal degrees in their respective fields.
How is anyone expected to compile the myriad factors into a comprehensive score, applied to each institution on an individual basis and made relevant to an entire class of incoming students?
There is an inherent problem in attempting to translate the quality of intangible, personal experiences into a packaged quantity. The data can say a lot depending on how it is presented, but it is not enough to heavily rely on someone else’s judgment when it comes to your priorities.
Even the top editor of U.S. News & World Report openly admits that college rankings were never meant to be more than a brief supplement to the active process of determining what school fits your needs. Rankings are merely the surface, among college visits, informational interviews and research.
Yet students, parents and guidance counselors have flocked to college rankings as the deciding factor in recent years. This has driven schools that once served a community (for instance, offering an affordable education) to sacrifice its purpose for prestige. U.S. News & World Report rewards money spent, not money well spent, which has encouraged universities to raise tuition in order to fund excess. As a matter of fact, in an effort to become the premier public university of the Northeast, that is partly what is happening here in Binghamton.
Even worse, these rankings exacerbate the prevailing fear that a “good” college is the greatest indication of lifetime success, when in reality an education is determined by strength of character, motivation and hard work. Yes, there are undeniable benefits of attending a school that incubates talent, but it doesn’t mean students who do not follow the prestigious track are on a road to failure. An education is what you make of it, and while college rankings are not responsible for creating this warped mentality, they certainly foster its existence.