The Government Thinks Ranking Colleges Is As Easy As 'Rating a Blender'


Gavin Huang

An Education Department official who famously declared that ranking colleges is just like "rating a blender" does not deserve an "A" for effort, according to perturbed university administrators.

The comment, made last November by DOE Under Secretary Jamienne Studley, alarmed many university presidents who claimed that federal efforts to establish an objective college ranking database would be prone to error.

Months later, numerous administrators are still concerned that an onslaught of new regulations based upon a misguided government ranking system would cause more harm than good, according to The New York Times:

In interviews, several college presidents expressed deep reservations about the idea.

"As with many things, the desire to solve a complicated problem in what feels like a simple way can capture people's imagination," said Adam F. Falk, the president of Williams College in Massachusetts. Dr. Falk said the danger of a rating system is that information about the colleges is likely to be "oversimplified to the point that it actually misleads."

Charles L. Flynn Jr., the president of the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx, said a rating system for colleges is a bad idea that "cannot be done well." He added, pointedly, "I find this initiative uncharacteristically clueless."

President Obama's "uncharacteristically clueless" idea is to compile a database of colleges and universities that ranks them according to factors such as graduation rates, employment levels of recent grads, average debt, etc. Students could use the database as a reference when deciding where to attend school, and lawmakers would consult it when determining how much public money to dump on the lawn of their local campus.

In a statement that likely set zero college administrators at ease, a White House advisor clarified that this policy would only hurt the bad universities:

"He is not interested in driving anybody out of business, unless they are poorly serving the American people," said Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. "In which case, I think he's probably pretty comfortable with that."

White House officials claim to be increasingly concerned about rising student debt levels, as is the general public. Certainly, college administrators—especially those who work at taxpayer-subsidized universities that spend millions of dollars on fancy stadiums and luxury hotels—should expect a reckoning.

But it's hard to believe the federal government could cobble together a central database with valid insights about which colleges deserve to be driven out of business. Constructing such a system is probably a little harder than rating a blender.

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  1. Who is Robby Suave?

    1. Rico’s cousin.

  2. An Education Department official who famously declared that ranking colleges is just like “rating a blender” does not deserve an “A” for effort, according to perturbed university administrators.

    I give it an E, which is still a failing grade.

    1. I give it the worst grade imaginable: an A minus minus!

  3. U.S. News already ranks colleges based on a whole bunch of criteria. I trust them far more than any government agency. Best of all, they don’t use any tax-revenue to do so.

    1. That just means that the results have been twisted to suit the interests of evil corporations. Taxpayer funding is both necessary and sufficient for purity of heart.

    2. Crappy criteria, in many cases.

      It penalized schools (twice) if they use the model of reasonably easy acceptance but hard to graduate.

      Like my school used to be. Both ends have gone towards the “preferred” model, less easy to get into and easier to get out of.

  4. I’m sure that a ranking system would never be used for political purposes.

    1. Perish the thought.

      Or else…

    2. Live by the administrative fiat – Die by the adminstrative fiat.

    3. This, a thousand times over. Own the rankings, own the yardstick, own the funds, own the system.

  5. If you’re concerned about tuition inflation and rising student loan debt here’s a thought: Stop subsidizing student loan debt. Crazy, I know.

    1. I’m also concerned about grade inflation. Any ideas there?

      1. Tell the fed to stop printing A’s?

      2. Access

        Choose any TWO.

        1. Yup. You want more people to attend college, you need to dumb it down a bit

        2. At the time I attended Georgia Tech, they chose Access and Rigor. Lack of Retention was something they were PROUD of. They have tightened up Access and increased Retention, both of which have boosted the school in USN≀ rankings.

          I might not get in under the current system. But they gave me a chance and I graduated with highest honors.

          1. There’s nothing wrong with choosing access and rigor, but then you have to accept lower retention, which can be really difficult politically. What really burns me is the higher-ups who continue to lamely insist that we must have all three, and call their insistence “strategic planning”.

            1. It’s like the construction industry:

              High Quality
              Low Cost
              Designed/Built Quickly

              You’d be amazed at how many people don’t understand you can only get two of the three.

              (Well you guys probably wouldn’t be amazed, but then you’re not retarded.)

      3. Stop subsidizing grades!

      4. More hard sciences, less relativism

    2. Let’s see. When you tax something you get less of it, and when you subsidize something, uh, I forget the last part.

      1. When you tax something, you drive up the price.

        When you subsidize something, you also drive up the price.

        Weird, huh?

  6. Strange. One would expect an academic to know the difference between the words, “uncharacteristically” and “characteristically.”

    1. Not when their personal biases mean they are characteristically clueless with regards to the actual intellectual capacity of this administration.

  7. I think we all know which cabinet department should be “driven out of business.”


    2. You make it sound like there’s only one.

  8. You must be kidding? Just look at the food desert map the FDA has been putting out for years and see how good they are at this stuff.

  9. uncharacteristically clueless


    Ranking universities is stupid. The quality of an education is difficult-to-impossible to quantify, and attempts to do so tell you more about what the ranker values than what the school delivers. And of course these bullshit criteria would heavily favor bullshit fake categories like diversity over anything useful like graduation rate or cost.

    1. If government were completely out of education, universities would be firebombing one another to demonstrate that a degree from their school = good job.

      1. I’d imagine degrees in pyrotechnics would be highly valued.

        1. And their ROTC departments would be much larger!

        2. Well, for administrative and research positions, yes. Probably not so much for faculty.

      2. For an example, see how hard the Florida universities fought being put on the FETPIP, which seeks to track outcomes for various Florida educational programs. For all the wrong FL does, it does collect extremely valuable longitudinal data on education and outcomes.

        1. The state does collect good data. It then puts that data in the hands of drunken monkeys for interpretation and policymaking.

    2. But, but, but how can you judge the quality of a university unless you know how many lesbian Hispanics are studying engineering? How?!?

      1. engineering? How heterosexist of you.

      2. If they were studying engineering, it would be a very good thing.

        But they’re probably studying their navels in some Dept of Lesbian Hispanic History.

    3. I occasionally run into job descriptions that require a degree from a “top 50” university, which I did not attend.

      That right there tells me that it’s not a company I would want to work for even if they would look at my resume.

    4. The quality of an education is difficult-to-impossible to quantify…

      What? Everyone knows that all people go to college with the exact same goals, looking for the exact same experience, to learn the exact same things. It’s not like there are confounding variables or anything.

  10. It could be like the Flexner Report all over again!

  11. Good lord this is the most dishonest/retarded article I’ve seen in a while.
    Ignoring the federalist papers for a second how can a career writer/editor not understand basic grammatical rules? He then proceeds to dismantle his own argument:

    The surprising discovery is that of all the amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights, the Second was probably the least debated. What we know is that the founders were deeply opposed to a standing army, which they viewed as the first step toward tyranny. Instead, their assumption was that the male citizenry would all belong to local militias. As Waldman writes, “They were not allowed to have a musket; they were required to. More than a right, being armed was a duty.”

    1. The comments are better than the story, as always.

      Doro Chester, NY 5 hours ago
      As too many others have had to observe, the right of ordinary Americans to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has been hideously curtailed by this cynical and corrupt misreading of the Second Amendment. I’m a prisoner in my own country because of the triumph of these lunatics, hucksters and profiteers–abetted by the final, fatal ingredient of an unhinged, ideologically-driven majority on the Supreme Court

      Beyond the madness of a citizenry armed to the teeth with lethal weapons, the gun lobbies have also raged against knowledge, pushing through laws that forbid family doctors and pediatricians to inquire about the presence of guns in the home, killing legislative efforts to amass and analyze data about gun violence, and waging brutal campaigns (including death threats) against journalists who provide maps of gun ownership so that at least citizens can know if their next-door-neighbor has an arsenal in the cellar. We peaceful ones don’t even have the right to know if we’re living on the edge of some gun hoarder’s final rupture with reality.

      I don’t know where this stops. I do know that a great many more lovely children and promising young people–hundreds more, thousands more–will be slaughtered stupidly, brutally and needlessly before we finally reach that turning point. It’s beyond a national shame: it’s a national psychosis.

      FlagReply 74Recommend

      1. We need to disarm the populace, like they did in peaceful Chicago.

      2. What. A. Pants Wetting. Dumbass. LOL:

        I do know that a great many more lovely children and promising young people–hundreds more, thousands more–will be slaughtered stupidly, brutally and needlessly before we finally reach that turning point.

      3. Here’s an idea… buy a gun, learn to use it, then learn how completely inert guns are. Why, mine lay around for six months with an infant in the house before I finally got around to buying a cabinet with a lock on it. And nothing else happened.

      4. pushing through laws that forbid family doctors and pediatricians to inquire about the presence of guns in the home

        Yes science forbid that I think it’s none of the doctors damn business what I have in MY house. Never mind the idea that I don’t want to be added to some list somewhere because I have guns in my house.

        I would seriously straight up tell my kids pediatrician to fuck off if they ever asked me that. What the fuck is wrong with people.

    2. So, basically the founders were against private gun ownership, but they believed it was your duty as a member of society to own one? What?

  12. Charles L. Flynn Jr., the president of the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx, said a rating system for colleges is a bad idea that “cannot be done well.”

    Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?

    “He is not interested in driving anybody out of business, unless they are poorly serving the American people,”


  13. If only there was a way right now to tell which colleges are better at which disciplines…

    1. If only USN≀ had decent ratings…

      1. To be fair, it’s still better than whatever retarded scheme Obama would come up with.

        Hello 2.0

  14. OT: Woman confronted by burglar in home, comments on own news story about her lack of need for guns:

    Bea Kelleigh said it was just after midnight on Sunday morning when she noticed some sort of shape next to her bed.
    “I reached out to touch it, thinking maybe it was something I left there by mistake, and it moved and it kind of whacked me,” she said. “I was completely scared. No question about it, screaming.”
    The intruder ran out of the house with some camera equipment and her cellphone.
    Kelleigh chased after him but he took off down the street. Police, she said, showed up in less than five minutes.

    Her self-unaware comment:

    Speaking for myself, I am glad to live in a country and a city where we do not all need guns. I appreciate the South Precinct officers who arrived within moments and responded with impressive skill and care. Officers Elliot, Ward, Harris, Persun, A Johnson, Belgrade, K-9 Officers Briskey and Dupliech, Officers Wilkes, Ferriera, Baretta and colleagues, I thank you for responding so quickly in a time of need.

    Uhm, yeah. Thank God you were confronted by someone who wasn’t serious about hurting you, who would have had about 5 minutes to stab you multiple times in the chest, or beat you to death.

    If you’re not going to own guns Ms. Kalleigh, I strongly recommend you lock your shit up at night.

    1. She probably believes the cops will actually investigate the crime. What a chump.

      1. They caught him. Find My Iphone app actually did it.

        1. So the private sector found him, the cops just went and picked him up.

          1. Actually, yes, that’s a pretty good summary.

            1. A coworker of mine said her neighbor’s car had been broken into and a bunch of disks were stolen. She went to the cops who of course did nothing. Well, she went to the store down the street that sells used disks, and sure enough there they were. Got the name of the guy who sold them to the store, and took that to the cops. After openly mocking her for doing the job they wouldn’t do, they grudgingly went and picked the guy up.

    2. I’m sure the cops would have responded exactly the same way if she were poor and black/hispanic living in a poor black/hispanic neighborhood.

      1. Beacon hill is kind of a dicey neighborhood. I’m actually impressed with the response. However, I can’t find any indication from the article as to how they were called. Dude took her cell phone, and she ran after him. Did someone else call 911? Did she with… another cell phone as she was running down the street? Did she go to the house phone, call 911, then drop the phone and give chase? Did a neighbor when he saw the white woman running down the street in her bathrobe?

        And if any of the above is true, did the 5 minutes start from the phone call, and if so, how many minutes after her realization that a potentially murderous person was in her bedroom did the police actually arrive?

        Because as we all know, when seconds count, the police are only 74 minutes away.

    3. I don’t get it. What if he had decided to attack her instead? How fast would the police have gotten there if she didn’t have the chance to call them?

      1. May have never. Again, the article isn’t clear who or how 911 was called.

        It’s possible it would have been a neighbor complaining about the smell that would have alerted authorities.

  15. “The Government Thinks…”


    1. This is such a critical point–collectives don’t think or feel. Only individual humans do. It’s one of the reasons so much evil can happen through collective action, because deferring to the collective shifts individual moral responsibility to this entity that has no moral responsibility.

      1. You make a good point, Pro. All elected officials should have to be tested with the gom jabbar.

        1. We can’t have animals running things, after all.

  16. Government: Will it blend?

    1. Well, it does slice, dice, and chop.

      1. What this town needs is a Super Gov-o-matic ’76.

        1. Mmmmm, bass smoothie.

    1. Took me a second. I was thinking, “no, San Francisco is fucked. Purifying fire or at least a bum uprising is the best they can hope for.”

    2. You might save his body, but his soul died a long time ago.

  17. I could use a little help here:

    Which of the enumerated powers includes regulating colleges?

    1. It’s implied in the Preamble.

    2. It’s under the Penumbra Clause.

      1. I get auras when I read what passes for constitutional law these days. Is that the same thing?

        1. If your aura lasts 4 hours or more, please see your crystal shaman, right away.

    3. Don’t call it regulation, call it extortion and blackmail.

    4. “Provide for the common WELFARE”

    5. Isn’t the Commerce Clause the “Faked you out! Gotcha!” part of the Constitution that renders all the other parts meaningless?

      1. No, that’s no longer in vogue. It’s the General Welfare clause for nonlawyers and the Tax clause for justices.

    6. The general welfare clause. Hands up, don’t move, we’re doing general welfare!

    7. Which of the enumerated powers includes regulating colleges?

      Enumerated powers are so quaint.

      If it doesn’t violate one of the enumerated rights in the Amendments, then it’s a legitimate power.

  18. While the quality of education is difficult to quantify (which is trivially true, quantity and quality being very different things), there are lots of things you can quantify.

    Starting with the ROI of a given degree from a given school.

    1. Yup.

      I was thinking the concept of the database with available info to look up is a good thing. Using it to generate rankings isnt.

      Let people set up their own crititeria and filter on it.

      1. “crititeria”

        I went to an engineering school…nuf said.

        1. You’re blaming Tech for “crititeria?”

          Besides, it’s a real word. It means the process of criticizing a woman’s bosom.

          1. Fuck Okie St:

            OK St wins 4-0-1
            Ok St – 13 under (would’ve thrown out a 69)
            GT – 7 under (would’ve thrown out a 71)

            Alabama wins 3-2
            Bama – 6 under
            SMU – 2 over

            Stanford wins 3-2
            Stanford – 4 under
            Illinois – 3 under

            LSU wins 4-1
            LSU – 2 over
            UCLA – 6 over

            Golf quarterfinals. We would have beat anyone else today. Instead we get nuked.

            1. They have golf courses in Oklahoma?

              1. Well, they have prairie dog holes that they try to hit balls into in between sister-fucking.

  19. OT: Bank wouldnt accept my concealed carry as a 2nd form of identification because it wasnt a “government issued” ID. Apparently the state of KY doesnt count.

    But my T-mobile bill was just fine.

    1. Wasn’t that the clue that you should have gone to a different bank?

      1. I considered it, but Im pretty sure its some federal regulation.

        I loved the question “Are you likely to withdraw over $5000 in cash in a single transaction?” Something like that.

        1. Always answer stupid questions with a question.

          “I’m allowed to close the account, right?”

          1. That would just get your name on a list.

    2. More OT: I cant apply for a KY unemployment insurance account until Ive actually paid someone (next week). Apparently applying for it in advance isnt allowed.


  20. “‘He is not interested in driving anybody out of business, unless they are poorly serving the American people,’ said Cecilia Mu?oz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. ‘In which case, I think he’s probably pretty comfortable with that.'”

    There is a big difference between “poorly serving … the people” and ripping them off outright. If certain institutions are damaging or defrauding the people, we have criminal and civil courts to handle that. Otherwise, reputation and competition in a free market will take care of the “poor servants.” Indeed, even a “poor servant” can provide a diploma that can help someone clear a government-imposed barrier to entry in a particular business sector or career field, which acts more to lower competition for established players than to protect the public from incompetent or unscrupulous ones.

    1. Does the government really want to open the “poorly serving the American people” box? Really?

  21. Another fault this “ranking” idea has is that it doesn’t take into account the field of study (Major), much less any specialization in that field. A school might have, for example, a somewhat low overall post-graduation employment rate/level, but a single department might have a very high rate.

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