We’re number …. what now?

reviewlogoThe Princeton Review has just released the annual list of  “[insert whatever of 58 topics here] college lists. Here are some of the topics where Lehigh ranked in the top 20.

  • Best College Library – Lehigh made # 20
  • Best Science Lab Facilities – Lehigh made # 14
  • Top Party Schools – Lehigh made # 6
  • Little Race/Class Interaction – Lehigh made #10
  • Town-Gown Relations Strained – Lehigh made #3. At least Duke beat us on this one.

For those interested, here is a link to their Lehigh University profile.

The criteria for the rankings:

Based on surveys of 130,000 students (average 343 per campus) at the colleges in the book in 2013-14 and/or the previous two school years. The survey asks students 80 questions about their school’s academics, administration, student body, and themselves. The ranking methodology uses a five-point Likert scale (1-most disagree, 2-disagree, 3-neutral, 4-agree, 5-most agree)  to convert qualitative student assessments (a.k.a, student’s opinions) into quantitative (a.k.a, numbers that offer ranking scale) data for school-to-school comparisons.

No school has ever paid a fee to be profiled in the Princeton Review.

The Princeton Review list is very different from the US World News & Report rankings in which this year, Lehigh was tied with FIVE others schools at #41. According to their website: “The host of intangibles that make up the college experience can’t be measured by a series of data points. But for families concerned with finding the best academic value for their money, the U.S. News Best Colleges rankings provide an excellent starting point for the search.”

Their criteria is a bit more robust: Schools in the National Universities category offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and Ph.D. programs, and emphasize faculty research. Topics such as faculty resources (student/ faculty ratio, # of PhDs), student retention, tuition, graduation rate, financial resources, and alumni giving rate are measured. But the topic that gets the most significant weight is the undergraduate academic reputation: opinions of those in a position to judge a school’s undergraduate academic excellence. The academic peer assessment survey allows top academics – presidents, provosts and deans of admissions – to account for intangibles at peer institutions such as faculty dedication to teaching.

While no one has ever paid to boost school rankings directly, there is a significant amount of resources (time, energy and money) allocated to make sure our reputation reflects our adherence to the educational mission of the school:

“To advance learning through the integration of teaching, research, and service to others.”

(read the full mission statement here)

The Princeton Review (to some) may have about the same credibility as a Buzzfeed Survey. To potential future students or parents of future students, these rankings can be a significant influencer on their school choice or their expectations of their experience before they even get here.

Why do I (an arts administrator at Lehigh) check the Princeton Review lists? Because it’s good to know what might be informing student expectations about their campus experience on all levels of life and learning. Institutional awareness means listening to student opinions as well as finding other research studies that inform our continuous improvement. Yes, there’s always room for improvement.

Why write a blog post about it? Because some of our non-campus readers may hear us talking about this topic in whispered tones over coffee or lunch in the community? Or maybe it’s because it’s a national news item every time the rankings are updated. Some may wonder if it is validation, or a distraction. Either way on this topic, we bob our heads up once a year to size up ourselves against our aspirational and peer institutions. Then we go back to work in service to the students who choose to come to Lehigh.

Now… what can we do to improve our score on strained Town-Gown relations?

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2 comments

    • There may be more in common than you initially think. But since we share the same zip code, that could be a good start for friendly interaction.


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