A closer look at what the rankings reveal
With the university being ranked the number-one party school in the nation by Princeton Review earlier this year, there has been increased scrutiny at the decline in the recently released US News & World Report rankings.
But upon close inspection, there are many faults with the ranking system dating back to its founding in 1983.
The Review has documented in recent years Delaware’s fall from 75th in 2015 to 89th in 2018, but many throughout campus and the nation say this is not necessarily a terrible sign.
Numerous educational professionals believe the system of U.S. News rankings have in the past favored institutions that have accepted more wealthy students versus the lower classes.
This can be seen in economic attitudes of colleges dating back to World War II. The growth of the student population spiked due to the GI Bill, forcing colleges not to be as selective since. Only 186,500 bachelor’s degree students graduated in 1940 to 1 million students graduating around the nation in 1990.
In last year’s article, The Review heard from Professor Iris Busch, an assistant professor of German, Spanish and Foreign Language Pedagogy, who saw growth throughout the university.
“We get better students and we have a more diverse student body. The university is building everywhere,” said Busch.
This is the goal behind the Delaware First fundraising campaign, which includes accepting more students from a variety of economic backgrounds.
“Several initiatives are currently underway at UD to enhance accessibility, affordability and diversity for all of our students,” President Dennis Assanis said in a statement earlier this week.
Brit Kirwan, a former chancellor of the University of Maryland system, stated in a Politico article last year that the U.S. News rankings were “creating a permanent underclass in America based on education.”
This was the same sentiment expressed by President F. King Alexander of Louisiana State University: “I think U.S. News has done more damage to the higher education marketplace than any single enterprise that’s out there.”
In reaction to such criticism, the U.S. News & World Report only changed their methodology slightly by removing features like the acceptance rate for “new social mobility indicators.”
This included other slight changes regarding the categories of expert opinion that is down 2.5 percent to 20 percent overall and student excellence that went from 12.5 percent to 10 percent.
The only category that was increased was outcomes among students that features, for the first time, the effect of Pell Grants in relation to graduation. This was in the same group as graduation and retention rates.
The university has gone down in the overall rankings, but it has steadily increased the graduation class size, from 22,166 students graduating in 2013 to 23,774 in 2017.
Some feel the changes made by US News & World Report were prompted by institutional angst that many felt in the 2016 election. According to Gallup, 67 percent of Republicans have low confidence when it comes to colleges.
Some Democrats also are at odds against colleges but often due to “practical aspects of higher education,” said Brandon Busteed, Executive Director, Education and Workforce Development, at Gallup.
Despite these criticisms, the university and many other universities have expanded academic summer programs, reduced the cost of applying with Delaware Goes to College and made the submission of the SAT/ACT scores optional.
But while examining the methodology of US News & World Report and University of Delaware statistics on the variety of categories measured, there are a couple that stand out.
One is the rise of tuition that has been a marker among schools to try to rise in the rankings. Within the past decade, the university’s resident tuition has increased 61.9 percent, with non-resident going up 62.2% between 2008 to 2018.
Another marker are faculty resources that factors into the rankings by 20 percent, and 7 percent of this is faculty salary. When examining this throughout the last four years, the average salary of a professor has risen from $186,898 in 2013-2014 to $202,236 in 2017-2018.
This data showcases that the university has tried to adjust to expectations set by the U.S. News & World Report with no success. But this new methodology will surely have a factor on future policies throughout universities.
But, for better or worse, as the U.S. News & World Report has stated before, they are and will continue to be the “800-pound gorilla of America Education.”