Staff editorial: Second tier, second year

U.S. News and World Report released its ever-controversial rankings again Friday much to the dismay of GW students. For yet another year, GW has fallen short of the goal of obtaining a respectable ranking. In light of the promises of administrators and the amount students and their families shell out each year for the privilege to attend GW, slipping out of the top 50 schools is a disgrace.

GW is one of the most expensive schools in the nation. Estimated tuition and expenses hover around $36,000. And what do students get for this money? New buildings, yes. Respect in a national publication? Well, not exactly.

How difficult would it be for GW to increase its stature in what has become a widely recognized who’s who of American universities? The solutions do not appear very difficult at all. The most obvious improvement would be to shave a few percentage points off GW’s 49 percent acceptance rate. GW already has too many students for the current facilities. By all accounts, eliminating a few would be a good thing. And if the admissions office cut a few students in the lower reaches of our SAT profile, so much the better, as that would also improve the University’s ranking.

But what about per-student spending? GW is known more for it’s willingness to extract as much money as possible per student and have it disappear into a bloated bureaucracy rather than recycle that cash back into student programs. Fixing this problem, too, would boost the University’s stature.

GW’s freshman to sophomore retention rate last year improved drastically over past year, reaching 92 percent. But our graduation rates leave much more to be desired. Graduating less than 80 percent of our students over six years is not an accomplishment to celebrate. The University must do more to keep students here and on track. Reducing the ludicrous cost of attendance would be a logical first step.

Overcrowded classrooms and underpaid faculty only hurt GW, as well. If the University insists on charging students so much, then why do professors make so little? Cuts should start at the top. The University president’s compensation package is ranked in the top ten, yet GW is not. There is glaring inconsistency here.

President Trachtenberg does not find the rankings an ultimately very useful document – at least not this year. In 1997 the University printed buttons that read GW is 46th. Apparently the rankings’ usefulness depends upon GW’s position in them.

Rather than criticize the system of ranking colleges and universities, GW administrators should work harder to improve the University’s status. The U.S. News college ranking issue is the best-selling edition of the magazine every year. A great many prospective students pay attention to what the magazine has to say. Perhaps the University should, too.

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