Magazine article University Business

Assessing an Institution's Heart and Soul: An Administrator Takes a Look beyond the U.S. News & World Report Rankings

Magazine article University Business

Assessing an Institution's Heart and Soul: An Administrator Takes a Look beyond the U.S. News & World Report Rankings

Article excerpt

IN THE AGE OF INCREASED PUBLIC accountability, rankings and ratings are rapidly becoming the primary factor used to determine the quality of a college or university. Unfortunately, the adage "You can't judge a book by its cover" applies when attempting to analyze and give meaning to such rankings and ratings. These rankings and ratings do not capture the heart and soul of an institution. The term "value-added" begins to approximate the heart and soul of an institution, but it still falls short in understanding the quintessential dimension of a college or university.

Of course, multiple factors contribute to a college or university's perception and performance. Thus, this critique is not meant to detract from any college or university highly ranked or rated. However, much in the same way that psychologists have expanded the definition of "gifted" to include categories beyond the intellectual (e.g., musical, artistic, kinesthetic), it is also necessary to expand college rankings and ratings beyond numerical equations and calculations.

As we consider expanded categories for rankings and ratings, it is important to examine the transformational dimension of an institution. Essentially, the question becomes, "What role does a college or university play in the development, metamorphosis, and cultivation and attainment of an individual's hopes, aspirations, and dreams?" Indeed, the major question in assessing the heart and soul of an institution may be the degree to which a college can increase the likelihood of human transformation. Can we truly turn water into wine?

Rankings and ratings currently favor institutions that take the best and the brightest and simply "polish" them, versus institutions that take average or disenfranchised students and revitalize their hopes and dreams into attainable objectives and goals. This "polished approach" to education is effective but extremely limited. It offers little to a generation that appears to be lost in a diet of sex, materialism, and self-indulgence in a misguided quest to become effective human beings. What this approach also does is gradually and simply minimize the social uplift responsibility and community service mission of a college or university in favor of the social cultivation of the favored and the elite. …

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