There’s always been a deserved fuss over college rankings, and understandably so. It’s hard to answer the question: What is a good education? Is it a large knowledge database, analytical development, networking, access to professors, a good community or getting laid all the time?
An article published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics seems to explain a different science behind looking at these important criteria. Instead, they surveyed high schools students, who mostly base their decisions on indirect sources and vague impressions of prestige and reputation, about their preferences while choosing a university.
Now, we’re not saying that we know more than these people about how to rank a school, but we may know more about what it’s like to be a high school student looking at universities.
They ranked Berkeley at 27th. Harvard was first, Caltech was second and Yale was third.
Berkeley has a reputation — and it’s not all good. Let’s be real. Coming from a very conservative area, the first response to hearing that we we’re going to Berkeley from most people was “Watch out, it’s reaaaally liberal up there.” Thanks for the input, conservative person. We’re not really sure how to respond to that.
And, well, it is pretty liberal. This university has been politicized since the ’60s, and even though political activism may have slowed down somewhat, that reputation is still there.
There’s also the stigma of being a public school. The best schools are obviously private, and it seems to be an important detail that we go to a public school. Why? We have no idea. There’s probably some interesting cultural factors that play into this, but that’s a post in itself.
We are proud to be in a public school and take part in our state’s endeavor to educate its youth. Of course, that leaves us at the whim of voters — a precarious position, as we all know — but that could potentially work to our benefit, too.
We also find it fitting that an economics journal based its rankings on demand. You’ve got to stick with what you know.
In our eyes, Berkeley is far better than 27th, but that’s what happens when you throw up your hands and delegate your metrics to 18-year-olds.
Image source: PrescottFoland under Creative Commons