Letter to the Editor: UW Rankings
August 17, 2010 — Every year, national publications and websites unveil their rankings of America's universities and colleges and their faculties. The rankings range from serious to frivolous: Best Buy, Most Affordable, Best Public Colleges, Professorial Hotness, Party School, Most Exclusive.
The University of Wyoming appears in most of these rankings. Mae West may have had a point when she said that it is better to be looked over than overlooked, but in some cases I'm frankly puzzled by the criteria used and their relevance to many families and prospective UW students. In many publications, higher applicant rejection rates and the slow-changing perceptions of college administrators are significant factors in the ratings. These criteria often correlate only weakly - sometimes even negatively - with UW's goals of providing access to higher education, excellence in academics, and leadership in fields of study critical to the state, region, and world.
(By the way, we think we stack up remarkably well against these goals, but we're far from complacent about our accomplishments.)
To break away from opaque rankings - whose methodologies can and do change from year to year - the University of Wyoming opted to become an early adopter of the national Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA), sponsored by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Association of State Colleges and Universities. Through its College Portrait system, the VSA provides a common set of information about more than 330 colleges and universities nationwide. With this system, prospective college students and their families can get a clear, consistent, fact-based view of what the member institutions have to offer, including academic programs, financial aid, graduation rates, and information about the communities where those institutions are located. The College Portrait also includes a section on student experiences and perceptions from the National Survey of Student Engagement. This way you can learn what the students, not administrators, think about the institutions they're attending.
Students who are entering their senior year in high school have many decisions to make, including where to go to college. You'll want to get this choice right. Instead of relying on someone else's compilation of perceptions and weighting factors, I hope you'll take a closer look at what UW has to offer. To see our College Portrait, please visit www.uwyo.edu and click on the College Portrait icon.
Vice President for Academic Affairs
University of Wyoming