WSU apparently lacks National Merit Scholars, according to a Daily Evergreen article published last week. Whereas the University of Idaho and the University of Washington were both listed as having National Merit Scholars in the teens, WSU was listed as only having three.
Great for them, good for UI. WSU does not need that. We are already a well-established school with a fairly good image. I would not be surprised if UI offers those students more than WSU does, thus luring them away from our own university.
Students, both incoming and current, do not really care about college rankings. Most students go to college to get an education — maybe do a few crazy things purely for the life experience — then get out and conquer the real world.
According to an article from The Associated Press concerning the topic of college rankings, "The vast majority of students attend college within three hours of home, so national rankings have little meaning."
I came to WSU because it was far away from my parents and because it is a good school. The fact that the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication is one of the top 25 in the nation only came to my attention the other day when I read it in The Daily Evergreen. Sure, I did a victory dance upon hearing the news, but it still had no impact on my choice to attend WSU. I only applied in the first place because UW cut its journalism program. Obviously, it has been one of the best decisions of my life, however arbitrary.
College rankings only matter to those who are paid to care about them. Other than that, people rarely pay attention to them. Presidents, deans and various high-ranking professors are the ones that worry about how good the school does or does not look.
Some of them will even go to extremes to improve their national rankings. For example, the high ranking administrators at Claremont McKenna, a liberal arts college in California. According to an article by The New York Times, college administrators there have been faking SAT scores for the last six years just to go from 11th to 9th in a ranking system.
John Pryor is the director of the cooperative institutional research program at UCLA, and he did a study that looked at how students view college rankings when applying. According to a blog post Pryor published on Sep. 9, 2011, only 18 percent of students entering a four-year university as a freshman felt that college rankings were very important. Pryor also writes that those who are most likely to care about college rankings are the media.
“Way down the list seem to be those who are actually trying to decide where to go to college,” he said in the same blog post.
Colleges need to relax. Students are going to continue to apply and attend universities, mostly because society has presented college and the degree you earn there as critical to future success. So long as you are a well-established university there is no need to bribe students to attend. If WSU"s record-breaking freshmen numbers are any indication, they will come flocking in all by themselves.