Friday, April 16, 2010

Frustration with college rankings

If any of you follow the college rankings by U.S. News and World Report and Princeton Review you might also know that environmental report cards are out there now too. But not everyone is happy about them, how they are tabulated, and what the publicity could mean when the methods behind them are unclear, not to mention time consuming for people who have to fill them out.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a piece in its current issue about it:

Colleges have been subjected to all sorts of ratings, rankings, and grades on their green sensibilities in recent years—and not all of them have been welcome. Sustainability directors increasingly find themselves filling out surveys from organizations like the Sustainable Endowments Institute, Sierra magazine, and the Princeton Review Inc., each with its own twist on questions about energy use, mass transit, water conservation, and so on. The data collection is becoming a real burden, they say.

Now, in a recent letter to colleges, the Sustainable Endowments Institute has floated a proposal: How would you like to pay $700 for the pleasure of filling out a survey? That money would help the institute render a grade—it could be an A-minus, or maybe a D-plus—for its highly publicized College Sustainability Report Card.

If you find yourself saying, "No, thanks," you're not alone, as the proposition may come at a bad time. Not only are many colleges watching every penny, but sustainability directors are also suffering from green-ratings fatigue. Just ask administrators at Ithaca College, who recently publicized a letter they wrote to the editors of Sierra magazine, explaining that they would not participate in the "Cool Schools" survey because they found the process too time-consuming, opaque, and of questionable value.

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