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Chicagophile


LETTERS
Use and abuse


Chris Smith's "News You Can Abuse" in the October/01 issue is rich in information about U.S. News and World Report's college rankings. The U.S. News articles are very informative, too. One can read past the newsmagazine's arbitrarily weighted final rankings and evaluate the constituent statistical data for oneself. "What are the educational criteria worth weighing?"-a good U of C-type question-is constantly asked because the newsmagazine's criteria are open, debatable, and debated. The pity is that the raw data are sometimes falsified-not by the press, but by the colleges.

We know this, and can compensate for it, because we have a free and inquisitive press-including good university magazines like Chicago's.

When college officials are seen trying to silence the press, intelligent and/or trained readers, whether they have a first-tier or fourth-tier degree or no degree at all, are bound to wonder why. Two statements from university administrators cited in the article are salient: "It's unfortunate when you get this hyper-commercialization and hyper-consumerization of academic life…" and "We probably feel more injured than some other places because we have tremendous self-regard." As general expressions of collegiate self-awareness, I would rank the first statement as third-tier and the second statement as admirably first-tier.

Jeffrey C. Kinkley, AB'69
Bernardsville, New Jersey


Thank you for a wonderful article on the absurdity of the rankings. I wrote an article about the rankings scandal when I found (in my thick files about this) a 1995 article in the New York Times. There, the Hamilton dean of admissions outright admitted to having included incomplete applications just so he could deny them and get back into the first tier. I know some colleges do this, but why bother?

I too called Robert Morse directly. Amazing: he answered his own phone. I picture him as short, slightly overweight, dark hair with lots of gray nowadays, a thin moustache that sits atop a thin-lipped scowl. Stressed to the max. Laughing all the way to the bank.

Thank you again-I shared your article with our cabinet officers.

David Hawsey
Albion, Michigan

David Hawsey is vice president for enrollment at Albion College in Michigan.-Ed.


Chris Smith's "News You Can Abuse" is a wake-up call for anyone who cares about our University and its future. Consider the following case study as an indication of the extent to which Chicago is already lagging.

The U of C and Stanford were both founded the same year, in 1891. Both are national, liberal-arts universities, making an apples-to-apples comparison possible. Today Stanford has surpassed Chicago's undergraduate college ranking, as well as Chicago's professional schools in almost every important measure. In business, law, and medicine Stanford generally ranks higher than Chicago not only in U.S. News and World Report, but also in other popular rankings.

The message is consistent, no matter what the source. Stanford's admissions selectivity for its college and its professional schools is much higher than Chicago's. Stanford's yield rate (the percentage of accepted applicants who enroll) is also significantly higher than Chicago's. A low yield rate means that (1) Chicago is not the first choice for many accepted applicants, (2) Chicago is probably a "safety school" for students who really want to go somewhere else, and therefore (3) many students came to Chicago because they were not accepted to their first-choice school.

In the early 1980s the size of Chicago's college was about 3,000. Today the college enrollment is over 4,000, a 33% increase. Among like schools (over the same period) a percentage increase of this magnitude has not occurred anywhere else in the country. To make up for a shortfall in alumni contributions and corporate gift giving, Chicago had no choice but to raise the size of its college. Last spring Stanford received a $400 million gift from Hewlett-Packard, the largest corporate gift to any university in the history of this nation. Stanford is not compelled to increase its size. Chicago is.

Although the U of C and Stanford began life in 1891, today Stanford counts only Harvard, Yale, and Princeton as its true peers. Stanford does not view Chicago as a peer. Rather than quibble with magazines that tell us a story we find unsavory, we should instead try to figure out what Stanford is doing right and start catching up.

Gautam Parikh, AB'84, AM'86
Cerritos, California


 

 


  DECEMBER 2001

  > > Volume 94, Number 2


  FEATURES
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Wealth of notions
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The remains of the day
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A new Chicago seven
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Beyond the bomb
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The life and tomes


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