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Editorial: Why WSSU will not tout its U.S. News ranking

Editorial: Why WSSU will not tout its U.S. News ranking
September 13
10:33 2018

By Elwood Robinson

On Monday (Sept. 10), U.S. News & World Report released its 2019 college rankings. You will undoubtedly see many universities touting their place on the list. Winston-Salem State University will not be. But not for the reason you think.

For the past several years, WSSU has declined to fill out the annual peer evaluations and statistical surveys that U.S. News uses to compile its rankings. We have done so for several reasons. First, the rankings do not measure the quality of the education provided at an institution or the outcomes of its graduates. Those are important data points for us. At WSSU, we are proud that we rate Number One in the University of North Carolina System for students having jobs in North Carolina after graduation. We are proud that our health sciences graduates pass their licensure exams at rates far above the national average. We are proud that our students graduate at the highest rate of any of the minority-serving schools in the System. And we are proud to have appeared in the Top 20 in the nation for four years on the Social Mobility Index (SMI).

The SMI evaluates institutions based on admissions practices that work to reverse the growing economic disparity in the United States. WSSU consistently scores high on all of the variables considered in the ranking: number of low-income students admitted and graduated, low tuition cost and high employment outcomes after graduation. This ranking demonstrates that we are fulfilling our goal of helping students succeed while having a positive and long-lasting economic impact on our state and nation.

Second, pursuing a high ranking from U.S. News means spending money on things the publication’s formula deems important. For example, schools that turn away a high percentage of their applicants are considered “more selective” and thereby raise their rankings. This philosophy is antithetical to our university’s mission. At WSSU, we believe it is far better for us to focus our resources on attracting students who are the right fit and ensuring they thrive as part of the Ram Family.

Third, the rankings play a role in the increasing cost of higher education. The ranking formula rewards schools that spend more money. Schools that chase rankings may be forced to raise tuition to cover the costs of added expenses that do not demonstrably impact the quality of a student’s education. As Chancellor, I would rather keep our tuition rates low so our students are not saddled with unnecessary debt.

You may see WSSU tout various rankings we receive throughout the year. We focus on rankings that evaluate the quality of our academic programs, the value we provide to our students and their families, the outcomes of our graduates, and our commitment to student success. We will continue to do our part to solve the dangerous problem of economic immobility in our country – and we will do it without chasing rankings that do nothing to evaluate our success in this area.

Elwood L. Robinson, Ph.D., is chancellor of Winston-Salem State University.

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