NOREEN: Survey does rank justice to Springs universities

August 22, 2009

Hey, we really rate.

The Air Force Academy, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and other area institutions are touted highly in the annual rankings of colleges to be released Monday by U.S. News and World Report.

AFA was rated the best baccalaureate college (meaning bachelor degrees only) in the West, and UCCS was ranked sixth in the West among master’s-degree-granting schools — ahead of schools such as Arizona State University.

The annual rankings are based on objective criteria (tuition, graduation rates, entrance standards, etc.), and especially for a small public school such as UCCS, in the shadow of CU at Boulder, which also received recognition, this is a big deal.

Locally, it may not be cause for dancing in the streets, but the U.S. News report is used by many parents looking to place their kids in colleges.

Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said: “I am pleased the efforts of faculty and staff to create a high-quality student experience is recognized.”

Colorado College was ranked 24th among liberal arts colleges, and Regis University, a Denver-based Jesuit school with a campus in Colorado Springs, ranked 27th among master’s-degree-granting colleges in the West.

For different reasons, the enrollments at CC and AFA don’t grow much, but UCCS has been a huge growth story and now has an enrollment of about 8,000. Its impact on the struggling local economy is huge.

The UCCS undergraduate engineering program was ranked sixth in the nation for public schools. The new engineering building just opened at UCCS, and it’s bound to enhance the program’s already elevated status.

Maybe even as far away as New York City. That’s the location of the Princeton Review, not to be confused with Princeton University, the prestigious Ivy League School in New Jersey.

Every year, the Princeton Review makes a big publicity splash with its party school rankings, based on surveys filled out and returned by students. It really amounts to kids like John Blutarsky, of “Animal House” fame, crunching beer cans on the sides of their heads while dissing this school or that on a whim.

The resulting story goes out over the wires, as it did in July, and is dutifully picked up by newspapers (including The Gazette) coast to coast.

Was CU at Boulder ever really the biggest party school? Why did it drop to 11th on the list this year?

No one knows.

UCCS hasn’t made the party list, but Shockley-Zalabak doesn’t think much of the Princeton Review’s survey.
“They do contribute to reputations that are not well-founded or well-deserved,” she said. “I worry about rankings that are not developed with solid methodology.”

Maybe the Princeton Review just needs to sober up.

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