More Than Just a Number LOVE THEM, HATE THEM, OR LOVE TO HATE THEM, COLLEGE RANKINGS —BOTH SIGNIFICANT AND FRIVOLOUS—GET PLENTY OF ATTENTION.
By Erin Peterson and Leah Duncan
It’s impossible to boil down the value of a college experience into a single definitive ranking. But Keith Summerville, deputy provost of enrollment management and Levitt Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science, understands the impulse that drives many people to rely on them.
The fact is that most universities—including Drake— have mixed feelings about rankings, even good ones, says Jill Brimeyer, assistant director of recruitment communications. “Rankings only tell one piece of the story, and do so through a very specific lens,” she says. “You get a glimpse at a small set of specific variables without any of the context.”
“Families face a dizzying array of choices when they look to send their high school graduates for additional education,” he says. “Rankings are one tool that they can use [to help make a decision].”
And while Drake is always working to get better, rankings don’t drive decision-making, says Kevin Saunders, Drake’s head of institutional research and assessment. Accreditors pay little attention to rankings, and Drake does not develop action items based on a desire for specific rankings. “Digging into [a ranking’s] methodology and measures can give us some useful information to guide improvements,” says Saunders, “[but] the results represent just one set of benchmarks.”
Of course, a ranking is only as good as the criteria used to create it. Ranking rigor is one reason that the deeply researched rankings offered by U.S. News & World Report get plenty of attention when they come out. And it’s why the methodology-free HuffPost story that named Drake among the top 20 “most interesting” places to go to college didn’t merit a front-page story on the University website.
In the pages that follow, we dig into some of Drake’s most well-known (and a couple lesser-known) rankings. We’ve asked the people who know the institution best—its students, alumni, faculty, and staff—to share their insider view on the numbers.
blue | fall 2017 | features
10/17/17 10:15 AM
Official Magazine of Drake University