Art by Sacha Irick
Last week, the Graphic reported that Pepperdine’s place in the U.S. News & World Report’s roster of national universities, dropped from No. 54 to No. 57.
Of course, with the annual release of the rankings came the salvo of higher education critics, with generic headlines like “Why U.S. News’ college rankings hurt students” and “Why U.S. News college rankings shouldn’t matter to anyone.”
But still, we were worried. After all, doesn’t a school’s ranking matter to prospective students when applying to college, and don’t we want Pepperdine to continue to attract the best and the brightest? Don’t we want the quality of the education we know we are getting to be communicated to the casual observer and the discerning employer?
Despite that, the quality of our education as viewed by the outside world potentially just plummeted, it doesn’t seem that the administration sees the situation as such a dire circumstance. In an interview, Provost Darryl Tippens expressed little concern at the change in rankings, saying, “The danger I see is assuming the change (up or down) signals some major change in quality (good or bad). That is questionable.”
Pepperdine’s provost isn’t very worried about the change in ranking, and this type of response is what we would expect. But looking past the numbers, perhaps we shouldn’t be so worried either.
People in academia often say that these rankings are the equivalent of scholastic beauty pageants. They take into account a host of variables, any of which could pull us forward in the rankings or drop us back a few places given the large number of schools taken into considration.
Here are the ranking criteria and weights:
-Undergraduate academic reputation: 22.5 percent
-Retention: 22.5 percent
-Faculty resources: 20 percent
-Student selectivity: 12.5 percent
-Financial resources: 10 percent
-Graduation rate performance: 7.5 percent
-Alumni giving rate: 5 percent
Take alumni giving, for example. We know that Pepperdine isn’t very good at that; it affects our rankings but doesn’t have any noticeable effect on the quality of our education.
And a change of three places? The list goes to a ranking of No. 201, and the rankings continue with many unranked schools. Can a shift of three places make that much of a difference? The change is barely noticeable when taken in context, especially if we remain below the top 50.
Last year, the Graphic graciously accepted the Huffington Post’s award for “Best College for ‘B’ Students.” We took the grade of A+ school for B students as a badge of honor. The article ranked schools that accepted “a significant number of students with nonstratospheric transcripts” based off of the 2013 U.S. News & World Report itself. Clearly, based off of the Huffington Post’s metrics, we’re doing something right, even if it may be considered second tier work.
In the grand scheme of things, Pepperdine still seems to be doing pretty well. A small change shouldn’t scare off uncertain employers or cause potential freshmen to shy away.
Upon a closer look at some of the initiatives in which Pepperdine is involved, we can also see that Pepperdine is actively working on projects that will keep our school competitive.
The deadline for the new Waves of Innovation project has just closed. The entire goal of this project is to find and finance projects that will help the university grow in quality and competitiveness.
Pepperdine is actively putting money toward improving the campus in other ways. The capital campaign for the Student Life Project is already more than $400 million. New dorms, event areas and infrastructure should draw students and higher ratings alike.
Considering academic and student life, we have a tight-knit community dedicated to our futures and well-being. We have networking and internship opportunities in the second-largest metropolis in the country. We often graduate within four years and classes are relatively easy to get.
Overall, from the student’s view from the hill, we’re pretty satisfied with our education. If the ranking’s numbers game proves too hard to ignore, try to remember why we came to Pepperdine in the first place. Everyone at Pepperdine is extremely lucky to attend school here — we have to remember that every day. Did the U.S. News & World Report affect your choice?
Follow the Graphic on Twitter: @PeppGraphic
As published in the Sept. 19 issue of the Pepperdine Graphic.