FARMINGTON – The University of Maine at Farmington has decided to stand with other private liberal arts colleges in choosing to not complete one section of the U.S. News and World Report annual survey that provides information to prospective students and their families.
“While there’s a lot about the U.S. News and World Report that we love dearly as we’ve received top ranking for the last 10 years,” UMF President Theodora J. Kalikow said Thursday, “people are realizing that part of the survey, the reputation survey section, is not distinctly valid or accurate sometimes,” she said.
As a public liberal arts college, UMF has chosen to align with private colleges, collectively known as the Annapolis Group, that recently decided to ask individual colleges to not fill out the reputation survey portion, which comprises 25 percent of the total ranking done by U.S. News and World Report. The decision whether to provide information in that part of the survey has been left up to each college.
The Annapolis Group, an organization made up of 124 leading private and liberal arts colleges that includes Maine’s Colby, Bates and Bowdoin colleges, did not call for an overall boycott of the rankings system at their recent annual meeting, according to a UMF release, but the majority of members indicated their intent to stop participating in the reputation survey.
“The basic motivation is to give families good information about making college choices,” Kalikow said about UMF’s involvement.
The survey portion in question is a peer assessment type survey where colleges rank each other, she said. Each college is given a list of other colleges and asked to rank them from good to not so good or not known. It can be highly subjective. Some colleges may not be known well by those ranking them, she said.
U.S. News and World Report provides an annual ranking of colleges and universities that includes data collected on graduation, alumni giving and other information, and UMF will continue to participate in those parts of the survey, Kalikow said.
“Although UMF has enjoyed 10 consecutive years of U.S. News and World Report rankings, we join the national conversation on how to assess educational effectiveness, student success and quality so that prospective students and their families can make meaningful comparisons to choose the school that best meets their needs,” Kalikow said.
A need for a better way led Kalikow to explain alternative approaches such as the National Survey of Student Engagement that measures students at the start of their first year and again just before graduation. It provides insight on levels of connection with faculties and educational experiences.
Some other form of objective testing of student knowledge is expected to be developed or used, she said.
UMF plans to work with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities to develop a common format to share information and agrees with the Annapolis group’s pursuit for development of a Web-based assessment tool.
“We agree with the Annapolis Group that quality assessment should be focused more on learning outcomes,” said Kalikow.