Last week, The Wall Street Journal released their annual ranking of the top 400 colleges and universities in the United States. The University of Connecticut came in at No. 46. While being in the top 50 would appear to be very good news for UConn — considering the school clocked in at No. 103 in previous years — a deeper dive into the methodology used for the rankings shows that this meteoric rise in stature ignores several key aspects of the UConn experience.
For this year’s edition, the Journal changed their methodology to place a greater emphasis on student outcomes, which indexes graduation rates and graduate salaries. Although this is a valid aspect to consider when evaluating a university, the Journal’s methodology places too much emphasis on it. In its calculations, student outcomes account for a staggering 70% of a university’s score. Thus, what happens after college is prioritized over the quality of the college experience, which only accounts for 30% of a university’s score. Of the 30% that actually focuses on student experience, learning environment accounts for 20% and diversity only accounts for 10%. Since this is only a small percentage of an overall score, the Journal’s methodology devalues the aspect of student experience by focusing on outcomes.
The Daily Campus Editorial Board believes that this ranking does not accurately reflect UConn in its totality and ignores the issues that have plagued student life at this university. Only counting learning environment as 20% of the score fails to accurately weigh issues like taking millions of dollars from the Department of Defense, which creates a dependency for academic programs on the war industry; a lack of action against sexual violence despite having some of the highest rates in the country; and an increasingly frustrating promise of a plan to go carbon neutral by 2030 that has yet to come to fruition. This comes as a result of a worryingly low amount of communication and accountability from the increasingly-undemocratic board of trustees that continues to ignore issues that affect the lives of students on campus; with its myopic focus on economic outcomes, the Journal’s conclusions fail to properly take this into account.
Only counting diversity as 10% of the overall score is also concerning, as UConn has dealt with a slew of issues in this category. UConn continues to fail to properly fund its cultural centers and neglects the needs of marginalized students. Money and resources that could be invested in these categories has mostly been spent on unnecessary and extravagant upgrades to UConn’s athletic facilities and, as one egregious example, on UConn men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley’s $32 million contract. The failure of UConn to properly address these issues reflects poorly on the university and, in turn, the Journal’s methodology.
In order to truly evaluate UConn and other universities like it, The Editorial Board believes that improved rankings of American colleges and universities must shift away from this heavily outcome-oriented model in favor of a more holistic analysis that properly weights diversity, student experience and responsiveness to issues faced by students. Student outcomes should still be included, but not to the extent of the method currently touted by UConn. A proper methodology that includes an honest evaluation of failures to address issues that students have long been demanding change on could finally force the university’s hand into taking meaningful action. It would also serve to benefit prospective students by revealing the scale of UConn’s negligence and lack of accountability that defines the university.
Until future rankings use a better methodology to rate colleges and universities, the UConn community should be cautious of the validity of its placement in the Journal’s top 50. The Journal’s ranking system failed to properly account for UConn’s faults, and we as a community must recognize that.