Oberlin ranked 24th in the US News and World Report annual ranking of America's best colleges and universities this year, down from 22 last year.
The listing of the top 25 national liberal arts colleges showed Swarthmore College as the number one ranked school.
US News and World Report's method for compiling the listing is based on seven factors. The factors are reputational ranking, selectivity, faculty resources, financial resources, retention, value added and alumni contributions. After the seven scores are tabulated, the school with the highest ranking is given an overall score of 100, from which all other scores are deduced.
Professor of Physics, Dan Styer, said that Oberlin's slide in ranking did not concern him. According to Styer, all of the factors by which the report measures colleges are subjective. Some, like the category of financial resources, he said, are irrelevant. Styer said that a college could be using abundant funds for the meal program or new buildings neither of which attribute to the quality of education.
The completion of the survey is handled by Oberlin's Office of Communications and Ross Peacock, director of Research.
There are two areas in which Oberlin's scores have dropped considerably. Student selectivity, which is based on acceptance rates, actual enrollment, average SAT or ACT scores and the number of entering first years who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class, moved from 30th to 41st. Faculty resources, judged by the ratio of full time students to full time faculty, the number of full-time faculty with doctorates, the percent of part-time faculty, salary average and class size, moved from a ranking of 28th to 59th.
Regarding the drop in Oberlin's rating, Scott Wargo, Director of News Services in the Office of Communications, said that the score is irrelevant. According to Wargo, what US News and World Report may consider an important factor in the ranking of a college may not be in line with the goals and educational beliefs of Oberlin. Many things that the Oberlin administration, faculty and student population may see as superlative educational benefits, such as the diversity of the student body and the college's relation to the Conservatory, are not considered by US News and World Report, said Wargo.
He also said, "It's nice to be recognized as one of the top 25," but that "the college does not put a lot of credence in the rankings." A high ranking is a pleasant statistic for public relations use, said Wargo, but it is not considered as a factor in decisions made by the college.
Related Web Sites:
Salon Magazine: Rank Error
The top ten reasons why the media's obsession with lists is inane
US News Online: The 1997 College Rankings
Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 2; September 13, 1996
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