Academics & Research

Forbes’ ranking disappoints students, administration

Forbes Magazine ranked UH as 482 out of 650, the bottom of the third quartile, in its annual list of top American colleges.
“Last year when the football season went very well, people were excited to say, ‘Yes, I go to UH!’” said pre-pharmacy sophomore Jessica François. “But no one wants to go around saying, ‘Yeah, I go to UH and we’re ranked 482 on the Forbes list.’ It makes the University seem a lot worse than it actually is.”
Richard Bonnin, executive director of media relations for the Office of University Communication, said Forbes places a strong emphasis upon student debt at graduation.
“That is why the top of the list is heavily populated with the military academies and highly endowed private institutions,” he said.
The Center for College Affordability and Productivity, which compiles the rankings, graded each university according to five weighted categories: post-graduate success, student satisfaction, debt, four-year graduation rate and academic success. Debt accounted for 17.5 percent of each score, four-year graduation rate accounted for 11.25 percent and student satisfaction accounted for 27.5 percent.
“The Forbes methodology also places great weight on the four-year graduation rate, which UH continues to work to improve,” Bonnin said. “Most rankings look at the six-year graduation rate, for which UH has made significant progress.”
According to the CCAP, only 15 percent of UH students graduate in four years. This number is considerably low compared to other Texas universities — such as the University of Texas at Austin, graduating 53 percent of students in four years, Southern Methodist University graduating 60 percent and Rice University graduating 79 percent.
“The four-year graduation rate is inappropriate for UH in terms of rankings,” said John Antel, provost for UH.
“We are an urban public university. Many of our best students work to pay for their education, so it is unrealistic for many of our students to graduate in four years.”
Student satisfaction was judged by freshmen-to-sophomore retention rates and Rate My Professor student reviews.
“In one sense, students are consumers of the education colleges and universities offer, with the core dimension of the learning experience coming from classes taught by instructors,” said the CCAP in “Compiling the Forbes/CCAP Rankings.”
Students who post ratings on the website are viewed as experts because of their significant experience with the professors they are evaluating.
While some may be surprised by the overall ranking, there are some positive statistics found in the article, François said.
“I was actually very glad that there were about 80 percent of students receiving financial aid, because I think that’s a lot better than other universities,” François said.
“I don’t believe this ranking is truly representative of UH because this doesn’t get the whole picture of the University. It focuses on very specific details and doesn’t consider things like student involvement.”
Although UH may be ranked low on the Forbes list, the University has fared well in other comparative studies this year.
UH was ranked among 150 institutions nationwide on the list of “Princeton Review Best Value Colleges for 2012” in February, recognized as one of the 100 “Great Colleges to Work For” nationwide by The Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this month, and also ranked 12th in the nation for graduating students with the least amount of debt in 2011 by the U.S. News & World Report.

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