Relevance of College Ranking, Union Institute

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by eleanor rigby, Aug 11, 2003.

  1. eleanor rigby

    eleanor rigby New Member

    As far as I know, Union Institute is ranked in either Teir 3 or 4 on the US News and World Report list of top colleges. What does this mean? How important is this ranking as far as potential employers looking at my resume are concerned? Considering the vast number of colleges in this country, are there some colleges that don't even make the list? I guess I'm just curious about the relevance of college ranking, and what Union Institute's ranking says about the quality of its education. I'm a DL novice, so forgive my ignorance.

  2. Kirkland

    Kirkland Member

    The U.S. News rankings are related/based on the Carnegie Foundation's ranking of schools. I think the real value of these rankings is in the identification of the Tier 1 or most prestigious/best ...the true "gold standard" schools. Many companies, recruiters, and students wouldn't be associated with anything but the perceived best e.g. many consulting companies subscribe to this business model since the credentials of their thought leaders are their basic product. I think comparisons between Tier 2-4 begins to get fuzzy and becomes a ranking nightmare in actual practice and in the marketplace. Tier 2-4 are all regionally accredited and can be relied on to provide sufficient education in their fields for most career applications. There are a large number of schools that don't make the list e.g. foreign universities, other accreditation, state approved, etc. Much depends on your specific decision criteria and career needs.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 11, 2003
  3. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    The 2003 edition calls it a fourth tier national doctoral university. Its academic reputation score (obtained by polling university presidents, provosts and admissions deans) was 2.2. That's the same as Central Michigan U., Cleveland State U., Oakland U. (MI) and U. Arkansas- Little Rock.

    Not a whole lot.

    Keep in mind that these are undergraduate rankings and Union Institute is largely a graduate institution. Its udergrduate programs are oriented towards non-traditional; degree completion.

    USNews definitely favors a traditional model of undergraduate education, with full-time traditional-age students fresh out of high school, selective admissions and low attrition rates. It wants full-time faculty and scores down for adjuncts. It scores up for alumni giving.

    Schools that specialize in adult students are apt not to require SATs, they put less weight on high school class rank, they attract part-time students, have higher drop out rates and often don't graduate students in four years. That means that they are going to be lower tier, almost by definition.

    Hard to say, but all in all, I'd say not nearly as important as most people seem to think. What degree level are we talking? Bachelors? Masters? Doctorate? What kind of position is the employer seeking to fill? A generic position where any degree will do, or is the empoyer looking for a specialist of some sort?

    I think that at the specialist and graduate levels, employers are apt to be more interested in departmental reputation than in US News undergraduate rankings. Lower tier schools may do very well in fields where they have developed strong reputations. (Unfortunately, Union Institute has an "alternative" history and a self-designed major format that makes it harder for it to build a conventional reputation.)

    Of course.

    USNews only lists regionally accredited schools in the Carnegie 'Doctoral', 'Masters' and 'Bachelors' categories, and excludes all schools with less than 200 students. It also excludes all the hundreds of specialized RA schools. That's why you don't find UC San Francisco, the Scripps Graduate Institute or Rockefeller University, all of which have produced recent Nobel Prize winners. So it's a mistake to assume that because you don't find a particular school on the list, that means that it's inferior in some way. You can't assume that.

    There are also hundreds of schools accredited by other accreditors and there are the many community colleges.

    They are good questions, and I don't think that anyone has a pat answer to them.

    Personally, I find the USNews ranking fascinating and very suggestive. They do kind of help separate schools into peer groups. The top tier doctoral universities do represent a certain type of school: highly selective full-time undergraduate programs at comprehensive high profile research institutions. They stress pure academics and seem oriented towards reproducing the professor-class.

    The fourth tier universities tend to be more flexible admissions, non-traditional-age places, offering more vocational-type programs to part-time students, often at night or by DL. Those that offer doctorates usually do so in a relatively limited number of fields, and may put more emphasis on first-professional degrees than on pure research and scholarship.

    That doesn't mean that the programs are bad, in fact they may be excellent at what they set out to do.
  4. TUI is Tier 4 - and the bottom of the Tier at that. It is RA - and that's about it.

    The HCI recently comented on TUI reputation in the academic world:

    "One position candidate with a doctorate from Union Institute was once told that he would get further with a CV that didn't have "Union Institute" on it. "
  5. That settles it. I'm off to see the opthamologist tomorrow.

    I could SWEAR that I'm seeing the exact same quote over and over again, and by different people, even. Of course, when I look away from the monitor, everything seems fine.

    It's gotta be some degenerative eye condition. :rolleyes:
  6. obecve

    obecve New Member

    It is really interesting, not once in 25 years in my profession has anyone commented about the rank of my college degree. In all that time I was offered every job that I interviewed for. My undergraduate and master's degree were both from 3rd and 4th tier schools. My doc was from a 3rd tier school (depending on the year sometimes 2nd tier). However the program for my doc was ranked in the top 10 in its field based on US News and World Report. However, that did not matter when applying for my current job. What mattered? 1) I had an RA master's and doc 2)I had the appropriate credentials 3) I had the right experience 4) I had national credibility in my profession.

    I guess if I were a rookie, maybe other factors would have made a difference. Interestingly, the most important part was my presentation at the interview. Obviously, each profession is different, but credibility and all of the other factors brought to the table also matter and make a difference.
  7. tcnixon

    tcnixon Active Member

    One thing to bear in mind with all this silly talk about tiers is that these things can change. Where I first went as an undergrad, the school was ranked in the third tier. It is now a first tier school (which is what happens when you buy all sorts of things like law schools).

    DL schools are always going to score low. Too much of the assessment is geared toward b & m schools. Things like full-time faculty and traditional library resources don't mean much in the DL world.

    Last time I checked I think the school with which I was particularly pleased (from my time as a student there) is ranked in the fourth tier. So? The quality of the courses were as good as any I have had anywhere.

    And as for Airborne Stranger's comments on TUI, I'm hopeful that should a doctoral program ever accept him, I hope that his research is better than one unattributed quote.:rolleyes:

    Tom Nixon
  8. oxpecker

    oxpecker New Member

    It's at the bottom because the universities are listed alphabetically.
  9. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    I think that it's relevant to note that the USNews rankings don't directly address the quality of education that one receives at a university.

    There's a "peer assessment score". This is obtained by polling "senior academics", namely university presidents, provosts and deans of admissions. I think that this the most valuable part of the rankings, but it's a blunt instrument. It doesn't break down ratings by department, and it doesn't poll subject specialists who might be better acquainted with who is doing what in their own discipline.

    Too often the USNews "peer assessment score" resembles a name-recognition rating, which simply rewards the familiar suspects. (Notre Dame de Namur University, a few blocks from my home, plummeted out of the top tier of western masters universities when it changed its name from the more familiar College of Notre Dame. Nothing else about the school changed, but it dropped 0.5 "peer assessment" points.)

    There are five columns of data on "retention" and "graduation rate". This pretty clearly rewards schools with low attrition rates and full-time students that graduate in the expected time frame. Schools that enroll adults part-time are not going to do well here. And it doesn't really say anything about how good the instruction is.

    There are three columns on class size. This might be slightly more relevant to adult-student educational quality, but not by very much. It's even less relevant to DL.

    There's a column on percentage of faculty who are full-time. But personally, some of the best instruction that I've ever received has been from part-time instructors concurrently employed in government and industry. Some of the most deadening instruction has been from tenured hacks. That's obviously not a general rule, but neither is the suggestion that tenured instructors are better. This is a faculty labor issue, not something that a student needs to be especially concerned with.

    There are four columns on freshman selectivity, including SAT/ACT percentile, high school class rank and percentage of applicants accepted. Unfortunately, this is of little direct relevance to programs that specialize in enrolling adult students. (It isn't even relevant to schools that accept a lot of transfer students.)

    Finally, there are two columns on alumni giving. I think that this is basically irrelevant to educational quality. It favors schools that are homes-away-from-homes for late-adolescents, places with a good social life. Commuter colleges usually score lower here.

    So what does USNews seem to be looking for?

    Schools popular in a general way with administrators who don't have a subject specialty. Schools that are very selective in initial freshman admissions, and by implication, schools that recruit most of their students this way, directly out of high school (and not by transfer or by recruiting working adults). Schools that have low attrition rates subsequent to acceptance. Schools that graduate their students in the expected time-frame, implying full-time attendence. Schools that provide professors the working conditions they want. And schools that make their alums sentimental about the old place and willing to respond to fundraising letters.

    Does any of this really justify the idea that lower tier schools provide inferior education? Does any of it directly address the quality of education at all?

    I prefer my Google test.
  10. eleanor rigby

    eleanor rigby New Member

    Bill, can I ask what your "Google test" is?

    Thanks for the informative replies. I was just accepted to Vermont College of TUIU's Adult Degree Program. I'm going for my Bachelor's in Writing and Literature. Although it really wouldn't change my choice of what school to attend due to my circumstances (I'm a stay at home mom, so DL is my best option at this time), I became uncomfortable when I read some disparaging comments about TUIU on another discussion board, one of which has been repeated on this thread. After these responses, which have confirmed what I assumed all along, I feel confident that the "Teir" isn't that important in the long run.

    Just out of curiousity, though, does anyone know which DL school ranks highest on the US News and World Report list?

    Thanks again for your replies,

  11. decimon

    decimon Well-Known Member

    Here's another attempt at ranking. Why it's "Laissez-Faire' I don't know.

    How colleges "should" be rated is a good question. Post-graduation testing of students? How successful are students in the real world?
  12. oko

    oko New Member

    I concur with BillDayson and Obecve responses. I really have nothing to add other than to say that the U.S News and World report rankings are meaningless. It is only good for one year or so marketing for those schools at the top of the list because it is dynamic. My schools do not feature at the top of the list. It has not stopped me from passing all of my professional examinations.
    I n December 1996, when I was about to change job from what is generally regarded as a secured job, I was advised to send out hundreds of resumes with the hope I get 10 responses. I sent out 30 resumes and got 24 responses that resulted in 6 job offers when I stopped interviewing. With one exception, I never left my house for the interviews (all by phone). The first day my boss ever saw me when I took a position in March 1997, was the day I first reported for work. I don't bother to read those rankings because they are meaningless as far as I am concerned.
    My wife just graduated in May this year and she is starting a new job in next week. The bottom line is accreditation and preferably Regional Accreditation. I cannot emphasize this well enough. People think of tiers, tiers and tiers. I recommend this week Newsweek weekly column "My Turn” written by a Harvard graduate and you probably may be convinced that holding a degree from a so-called top tier school does not guarantee employment. What guarantees an employment is graduating from a marketable program/course and having the appropriate credentials or licensures, if required. No employer has ever asked me about the tier ranking of my schools. Instead, they ask for my credentials and my degrees. The same is true of my friends and families and we are recent immigrants.
    Sometimes when I read about the obsessions of rankings from a well-informed forum such as this, I wonder if we are in the same country. Lest I forget, it does not matter either the mode of delivery in which the degree was obtained. It is accreditation, accreditation and accreditation. I prefer Regional Accreditation because it has worked wonders for my family, my friends and me.


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