The University of Washington was ranked the 14th best university in the world by U.S. News & World Report’s inaugural “Best Global Universities Ranking,” which was released on Tuesday.
Unlike U.S. News’s national rankings, which focus on undergraduate admissions data and graduation rates, these new rankings were based on research-heavy factors such global research reputation, number of publications, PhDs awarded, and highly cited papers (learn more about how the rankings were calculated). This methodological difference helps explains the odd fact that U.S. News ranks the UW 14th globally, but 48th nationally.
“This is about faculty productivity and prestige … It is meaningful for certain things and not necessarily meaningful for other things. We get that. This is about big muscular research universities doing what research universities claim is their mission,” U.S. News Editor, Brian Kelly, told The Washington Post.
The 2015 Best Global Universities rankings include 500 institutions and 49 countries, and provide breakdowns by region, country, and 21 subject areas. The U.S. dominated the rankings with 16 institutions in the top 20, and 134 institutions on the list overall. Germany had the second most institutions on the list, with 42, followed by the United Kingdom, with 38. China, which has received a lot of attention in the higher education world lately, also did well with 27 schools among the top 500.
The UW ranks highly on several other global lists: 15th worldwide by the Academic Ranking of World Universities and 26th by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
The Equity Line, among others, highlights how the recent NYT rankings of colleges by enrollment of Pell Grant recipients is a nice gesture, but lacking in many ways. The University of Washington (and most public institutions!) was not evaluated as part of the effort, though one-quarter of its undergraduate population received Pell Grant funding last year.
Equity Line contributor Jose Luis Santos notes that, “…the rankings only capture a tiny number of undergraduates enrolled in four-year colleges who receive Pell Grants (just 1.6 percent!), leaving out more than 4.2 million students. This distorts the picture of low-income enrollment, and it distracts the public and policymakers from the real problems with higher education access and success.”
US News & World Report released its much anticipated set of annual rankings this week; the UW fared better this year. Additional analysis about the UW’s position in US News will be posted to the blog as it becomes available.
On Tuesday, Stanford’s Board of Trustees announced it “will not directly invest in approximately 100 publicly traded companies for which coal extraction is the primary business, and will divest of any current direct holdings in such companies.” Furthermore, Stanford stated it would encourage its external investment managers to avoid investments in such companies.
The decision was made at the recommendation of the university’s Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing (APIRL), which had spent several months analyzing a petition by a student group called Fossil Free Stanford. After conducting an extensive research-based review of the issues, APRIL concluded that sufficient coal alternatives exist and that divestment “provides leadership on a critical matter facing our world and is an appropriate application of the university’s investment responsibility policy.”
This issue has arisen several times at the UW, which (like Stanford) is a leader in environmental stewardship and sustainability. Stanford’s decision may set a precedent for other universities, including the UW, that have grappled with this issue.
Of the nearly 900 schools that received federal money for research and development (R&D) in FY 2011, the UW ranks first among public institutions and second overall in terms of federal research funding. According to a study by the National Science Foundation (NSF), approximately 20 percent of all federal R&D support went to just 10 universities. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed those universities, Table 1 summarizes their findings.
Johns Hopkins University, a private institution, topped the list with nearly $1.9 billion—more than doubling what any other university received that year. The majority of Johns Hopkins’ federal funding came from the Dept. of Defense and NASA. The university also brought in billions via fundraising efforts.
The UW came in second with almost $950 million in federal R&D funding—the most of any public school. The majority of the UW’s money came from the Dept. of Health and Human Services; however, the University was the top beneficiary of NSF funding, receiving more than $145 million in 2011.
Year after year, the same schools consistently receive the most money, said Ronda Britt, a survey statistician with the NSF. 24/7 Wall St. quotes her as saying, these universities “have big research programs that receive a lot of support year after year, and have a lot of infrastructure that helps them keep the money stable.” This holds true for the UW, which has ranked first among public schools since 1974. Having large endowments was another commonality of the top 10 schools, yet federal funding covered the bulk of R&D expenditures in all cases.
As these universities rely heavily on the federal government to support their research, many are concerned about the sweeping cuts of sequestration. The UW and other universities are preparing for a range of possible impacts. As described in our joint brief, the sequester could reduce the UW’s federal grant and contract support by an estimated $75M to $100M during FY13. The UW community is encouraged to remain cautious and conservative in spending federal awards and in planning for future federal funding.
As The Seattle Times reported today, “For the first time ever, three Washington colleges swept the nation in their respective size categories for having the most participants in the Peace Corps.” The UW topped the large-schools list with 107 volunteers (tied with the University of Florida), Western Washington University led the medium-schools list with 73 volunteers, and Gonzaga University came in first on the small-schools list with 24.
Carrie Hessler-Radelet, acting director of the Peace Corps, traveled from D.C. to attend a news conference here on campus today. She personally congratulated the three schools on their rankings and said the achievement reflects Washington’s dedication to innovation and helping the poor.
The UW also topped the large-schools list between 2007 and 2010.
Last Thursday, California Governor Jerry Brown released a proposed 2013-14 budget that includes substantial increases for higher education—made possible by the passage of Prop 30. For the UC and CSU systems, the proposal provides an ongoing increase of $125.1 million each. This includes $10 million each to expand the delivery of courses through technology and is in addition to the $125 million that UC and CSU will each receive in 2013‑14 for not increasing tuition and fees in 2012‑13, as required by the 2012 Budget Act. In sum, the proposal says “the state’s General Fund contribution to UC and CSU will increase by 5 percent per year in 2013-14 and 2014-15 and by 4 percent in each of the subsequent two years.”
Both higher ed systems had asked for more; but, according to The Chronicle, Gov. Brown said “the gap between what we’re going to give them and what they say they’re going to need” would have to be made up through efficiencies. Cal State system’s chancellor that Mr. Brown’s proposal at least “heads us in the right direction.”
However, in exchange for new money, state institutions are expected to keep tuition and fee levels stable over the next four years. The institutions are required to increase access to online courses and limit resident tuition rates to the first 150 percent of credits needed to graduate. This limitation is an attempt to encourage timely degree completion, reduce student debt, and free up classroom space for other students.
At a news conference Thursday, Governor Brown stated that he would be attending UC and CSU board meetings in the hopes of encouraging both systems to keep tuition prices stable.
Last week, a Los Angeles Times/USC poll found that support for Proposition 30 is dwindling. Only 46 percent of registered voters now approve the California ballot initiative designed to deflect almost $1-billion in state higher-education cuts—a 9-point drop over last month’s poll by the same organizations. Meanwhile, 42 percent of respondents oppose the proposition.
If Prop 30 passes:
- The state’s sales tax would increase by 0.25 percent through 2016;
- Californians earning more than $250,000 would pay higher income taxes through 2018;
- The resulting $6 to 8.5 billion in additional revenue generated each year would allow the state to continue its current level of higher education funding into, at least, the coming year; and
- The University of California system would freeze undergraduate tuition rates.
If Prop 30 fails:
- California community colleges would lose $338 million;
- The California State system would lose $250 million—requiring the system to lay off (by their estimate) 1,500 faculty and staff, reduce next year’s Fall enrollment by about 20,000 students, and increase tuition and fees for in-state students by 5 percent; and
- The University of California system would lose $375 million—resulting in, as System officials declared, a tuition increase of as much as 20 percent.
Proponents of Prop 30 face resistance from the state’s fiscal conservatives and competition from another ballot initiative, Proposition 38, which would raise income taxes through 2024 and direct most of the $10 billion per year in revenue toward K-12. If both bills pass, California’s constitution requires that the proposition with the most votes cancel out the other. This is because Prop 30 and Prop 38 both increase personal income tax rates and could, therefore, be seen as conflicting. However, Prop 38 appears to have little momentum, relative to Prop 30 and it is unlikely that both bills will pass.
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A few highlights amidst the higher education news this week:
- The NYT ran a front-page feature on student debt this past Sunday. Many noted the misleading focus, common in popular press coverage of student loans, on individual students with abnormally high loan amounts, but more surprising was the claim that 94 percent of all students owe money at graduation. The correct figure is 2/3rds. The NYT has corrected the piece and explained that they misinterpreted Department of Education data, but the figure is happily bouncing around the internet and probably will be for some time.
- With another growing budget gap in California, the Governor’s revised budget contains additional cuts to higher education if voters don’t pass a tax hike at the polls this November. The UC and CSU system will face $250m in new state funding cuts if the tax package is not approved.
- Several top tier institutions are experimenting with creating humanities PhDs that feature shorter time to degree and prepare students for potential careers both inside and outside of the academy.
- The College Board made an interesting choice in their next leader, 42 year old David Coleman. Coleman was the co-founder of the nonprofit Student Achievement Partners, which helped develop and promote the Common Core Standards, which define what a student should learn and know in english and math through the 12th grade.
- MIT Provost and longtime faculty member L. Rafael Rife will replace Susan Hockfield as MIT President when she steps down. Reif was a leader in the development of MIT’s open courseware and online education efforts including the development of both MITx and the new edX partnership with Harvard.
The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released a report addressing the effects of state disinvestment on enrollment rates in Californian higher education institutions. California high school graduates, despite applying and being eligible for enrollment, are less likely to enroll in the UC or CSU system today than five years ago. The report blames this decline on state cuts in higher education spending, which has led to skyrocketing tuition and enrollment limits at California schools. While California community colleges have absorbed some of this decrease, the report finds that students are increasingly going out-of-state or not enrolling in college at all.
Highlights from the report include:
- Enrollment rates of Californians at UC and CSU have fallen by one-fifth in the past five years, from 22 percent of CA high school graduates in 2005 to 18 percent in 2010.
- UC and CSU have rationed enrollment and increased tuition in order to blunt the effect of decreasing state support on educational quality. Tuition rose by 50 percent between 2007 and 2011 at UC, and by 47 percent at CSU. Tuition at CA community colleges has also almost doubled in that time.
- UC has reduced its campus enrollment targets and places students not accepted to their campus of choice into a referral pool, which grants them admission to less popular campuses where they are less likely to enroll. CSU now requires a higher SAT/GPA combination for CA students that live further from their chosen campus in an effort to limit enrollment. Community colleges cannot officially deny enrollment, but they have increased class sizes and decreased program offerings which effectively limits slots.
- Most students accepted to UC who decide not to enroll there, go to private institutions, usually out of state (34 percent). 30 percent enroll at CSU, 12 percent to community colleges in California, 8 percent to public schools out of state, and 10 percent do not enroll in college at all.
The report finds these trends troubling, since it represents a great loss of human capital to California. Estimates say that two out of five jobs in CA in 2025 will require a bachelor’s degree; if current trends continue, California will be short one million bachelor’s degree holders by that time. The report recommends locking in tuition for four years for each incoming class, offering deferred tuition payment plans, reinvesting in higher education and increasing the availability of financial aid to students in order to combat decreasing enrollment rates. To read the full report, click here.
The Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE) at UC Berkeley has released a new report calling for a modernization of the UC system’s governance structure. Today, the UC system is run as one university with multiple campuses, and most decisions are made by a single, system-wide Board of Regents. The Center contends that the UC system has undergone huge changes in the past 50 years and that this centralized governance system is outdated. The campuses face individual challenges and opportunities: less funding from the state of California, increasing complexity, more diversity in the student body, and special programs, faculty and capital projects. The report contends that a more localized system of governance would be responsive to the needs of the campuses, would promote more efficient decision-making, and would allow the Regents to better capitalize on the unique opportunities of each campus.
The authors recommend that the UC system shift towards a hybrid system of governance, maintaining the Board of Regents while creating individual campus governing boards. The UC Board of Regents would continue to provide system-wide coordination and planning, preserve the UC-wide state budget, ensure access, and protect the reputation for academic excellence the UC system has cultivated. The local campus boards would approve campus budgets and allocate financial aid monies, set tuition for graduate and out-of-state students as well as for resident undergraduates (within Regental limits), set total enrollment capacity, decide on faculty cost-of-living adjustments, and approve campus construction projects.
The plan is controversial, and has received mixed reviews from UC authorities. While UC President Mark Yudof does not endorse the CSHE proposal, he concedes that the system should have further conversations about governance to make the system more flexible and efficient. Robert Birgeneau, one of the report authors and the current UC Berkeley Chancellor, defended the proposal, claiming it provides the necessary autonomy for campuses to address their individual challenges and opportunities.
To read more about the proposed structure of the campus boards, or the specific responsibilities they would hold, check out the full report here.
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