The highly anticipated annual U.S. News & World Report rankings were recently released, giving a look at some of the nation’s “best” colleges and universities.
[caption id="attachment_222223" align="alignright" width="294"] Jacob Owens Editor Delaware Business Times[/caption]
The Top 5 don’t hold a lot of surprises, including Princeton, MIT, Harvard, Yale and Stanford, or three Ivy League schools and two of the choicest, tech-heavy universities in the nation.The small First State is no slouch though, with the University of Delaware ranking 89th overall and second in the nation for its chemical engineering program, behind only MIT. Meanwhile, Delaware State University moved up to the second-best rated public historically Black college or university in the nation behind only Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU) – its highest rating ever.Even small private Goldey-Beacom College qualified for the annual list for the first time, ranking 55th for social mobility, or the ability to graduate high-performing students who qualified for income-eligible federal Pell grants.The USNWR rankings are an easy and neatly packaged story to tell for local and national media, but its opaque scoring and ranking system has increasingly come under questioning. The scandal embroiling Columbia University, an Ivy League institution in New York City that ranked No. 2 last year, has only heightened the drama.After last year’s rankings, Michael Thaddeus, a Columbia math professor, questioned the data submitted by his school regarding faculty education levels, graduation rates, class sizes and spending on class instruction. After a review, the university concurred with his allegations and this year, Columbia fell to No. 18 in the rankings.“No one should try to reform or rehabilitate the U.S. News ranking: it is irredeemable. Students are poorly served by rankings, and they create harmful incentives for universities,” Thaddeus wrote in his summation published on his site.Alleged cheating aside, the USNWR rankings no longer seem as relevant as they once did, with trades becoming a popular career path again and a new focus on affordability and social mobility of higher education becoming an important topic of discussion. It’s not so much about attending Harvard for most high schoolers nowadays, but how they can enter a chosen career path without sandbagging themselves with decades of debt to do so.It should come as little surprise that the Top 5 rated schools by USNWR are also the five with the largest endowments in the nation, ranging from $27.4 billion at MIT to $53.2 billion at Harvard. By comparison, UD had an endowment of about $1.8 billion in June 2021 while DSU had just $8.5 million, according to tax filings.When you have a seemingly endless supply of investment and donor funds to pour back into capital projects, program offerings and faculty hires, it’s not surprising that such Ivy League schools are often seen as the “best” in the nation.Yet when I look around at UD and DSU, along with Goldey-Beacom, Wilmington University and Delaware Technical Community College, and more, I see institutions that are growing in leaps and bounds to serve a diverse array of student needs in Delaware and beyond.UD has become a top-class engineering school, drawing an increasing number of foreign students to Newark to learn, but it also offers highly respected nursing, physical therapy and teaching programs while also pushing to the forefront of subjects like offshore wind and renewable energy.Its partnerships with corporations and the federal government through the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals has also become a campus-changing move that will pay dividends for generations of Blue Hens, connecting graduates with high-paying industry jobs and research roles. The status of President Joe Biden’s alma mater will push its public policy program to all new heights as students seek to learn from American and world leaders who frequently now make stops in Newark. At DSU, the state’s lone HBCU has made tremendous progress in recent years to expand its presence and offerings. It acquired the former Wesley College in Dover to boost its own nursing program and remains a strong business administration and ag science college. It has expanded its presence in New Castle County as well and is developing a wide network of corporate partners for increased placement of graduates. DSU is also in early talks to partner with ChristianaCare and Thomas Jefferson University to potentially offer the first medical degrees in the state.President Joe Biden’s decision to appoint UD President Dennis Assanis and DSU President Tony Allen to advisory panels in his administration is just further proof that the First State’s universities are first-rate choices for students in state and out of state.It’s human nature to want to rate higher than our peers and be seen as leaders in our fields, but when it comes to our colleges and universities, maybe we should just let the work of their graduates and leaders tell their stories.
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