Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Using Inputs to Rank Schools Is Like Evaluating Chef Based on Ingredients of Meal

Nancy Rapoport (UNLV) alerted me to this article by Thomas Sowell (Hoover Institution), Is Prestige Worth It? Elite Schools Don't Necessarily Deliver the Product You Pay For, in National Review:

A key role is often played by the various annual rankings of colleges and universities, especially the rankings by U.S. News & World Report. These rankings typically measure all sorts of inputs — but not outputs.

The official academic accrediting agencies do the same thing. They measure how much money is spent on this or that, how many professors have tenure and other kinds of inputs. What they don’t measure is the output — what kind of education the students end up with.

A new think tank in Washington is trying to shift the emphasis from inputs to outputs. The Center for College Affordability and Productivity is headed by Professor Richard Vedder, who gives the U.S. News rankings a grade of D. Measuring the inputs, he says, is “roughly equivalent to evaluating a chef based on the ingredients he or she uses.” His approach is to “review the meal”— that is, the outcome of the education itself.

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Unfortunately, the "product" desired by big transactional and corporate defense firms tends to be prestige, making the US news ratings correct (at least for this limited but significant purpose) in a self-fulfilling manner.

N.B. Wikipedia's entry on "law firm":
"...Because their "work product" is often intangible, or at least conceptually difficult for clients to grasp, some firms are notorious for using jaw-dropping interior design (huge amount of floor space and fantastic views) as a "shock and awe" tactic to impress prospective clients and intimidate opposing counsel. Other firms will find more modest office space, depending on the nature of the practice...."

Posted by: Anonymous | Jun 25, 2008 10:19:34 AM