It seems like ages ago, but we once discussed college rankings, and how YU fared much more poorly by standards other than those used by US News.
On that note, Washington Monthly has a new ranking system aimed at determining the educational value of the universities, a metric which is unfortunately overlooked in choosing a college and nearly impossible to define based on most ranking systems.
But what’s missing from all the rankings is the equivalent of a bottom line. There are no widely available measures of how much learning occurs inside the classroom, or of how much students benefit from their education. This makes the process of selecting a college a bit like throwing darts at a stock table. It also means that colleges and universities, like our imaginary mutual-fund managers, feel little pressure to ensure that students learn. As anyone who’s ever snoozed through a giant freshman psychology 101 lecture knows, sitting in a classroom doesn’t equal learning; knowledge doesn’t come by osmosis.
Although there are tests out there to help guage students’ collegiate academic progress (CLA, NSSE), most universities apparently keep their results to themselves. So, WM devised their own system which focuses on the university’s social impact.
And so, to put The Washington Monthly College Rankings together, we started with a different assumption about what constitutes the “best” schools. We asked ourselves: What are reasonable indicators of how much a school is benefiting the country? We came up with three: how well it performs as an engine of social mobility (ideally helping the poor to get rich rather than the very rich to get very, very rich), how well it does in fostering scientific and humanistic research, and how well it promotes an ethic of service to country. We then devised a way to measure and quantify these criteria.
How does YU measure up? Despite ranking 45 in US News’ survey, YU weighs in at an embarrassing 200 of 245 schools.
In fairness, WM’s methodology took military and peace corps service into consideration, neither of which are areas which are conducive to perpetuating an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. Furthermore, many YU students do in fact enter communal service, bet it as teachers, social workers, psychologists, and the occasional Rabbi. However since these professions serve a relatively small and exclusive community, these contributions would likely be overlooked.
Still, it might be nice for Yeshiva University to look beyond the 4 cubits of the Jewish world. Although there have been notable exceptions, most students I’ve known are either not interested or ideologically opposed to contributing to the non-Jewish world. We’ve covered some of the drawbacks of taking federal funding, and it might be a nice idea to contribute something to the society at large. Not only would probably help in kiddush hashem and tikkun olam departments, but it may also have other significant religious benefits.