Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Hastings Takes Dramatic Steps to Boost Its US News Ranking


Though, remarkably, that isn't mentioned until the very end (and merely in passing) in this story about the decision to cut the student body by 20%.  Hastings, like many large publics, suffers from the per capita expenditures measure in U.S. News, which is the tail that wags the ranking dog.  This kind of move, especially when instructional spending remains unaffected, is literally guaranteed to improve its ranking dramatically once its full effect is incorporated in the data reported to U.S. News.

UPDATE:  Evan Lee, a longtime professor of law at Hastings and the Associate Dean for Research, writes:

I understand that our class size cut looks completely U.S. News driven, but in fact it’s not.  Since the late 1990s, Hastings developed an unusual seriousness about pedagogy that I think was largely a reaction to the pointless cruelty of some 65-Club members in the β€˜60s and β€˜70s.  Nobody here thought we could really do a first-rate job of teaching 425 students per class.  In particular, we have one faculty member who had two kids graduate from Hastings and he was really bitter about the lack of attention they got here.  Just about everyone on the faculty felt guilty about the situation.

The second big driver was the fact that our graduates were having to wait so long to get jobs.  This does play back into U.S. News, of course, but we were getting a huge volume of complaints from students and grads.  So some of it was just squeaky wheel politics.

The third big driver was that an outside management consulting firm told us we were very fat on the fiscal operations side, personnel-wise.  We needed to consolidate a lot of positions in that part of the operation, and this gave us an opportunity to reduce revenues somewhat. 

And, of course, U.S. News was a driver.  You and others have proved that it has a small-school bias.  But our internal calculations actually show only a modest ceteris paribus increase – maybe 6 to 8 overall ranking slots over 3 years.  There were much cheaper ways of increasing our rankings


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