We’re Top 10 again. But does rank represent the true student experience?

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | September 13, 2018

After falling to number 11 last year, Hopkins has reclaimed its number ten spot in the 2019 U.S. News & World Report National University Rankings. Being a top ten school is something our University holds in high regard, publishing it proudly on The Hub and delivering the news to every student’s inbox. It is even listed as the fourth goal in University President Ronald J. Daniels’ Ten by Twenty plan.

However, we would like to ask: Why does being a top ten university matter so much, and what does it really mean? 

The methodology for university rankings varies every year, but according to the U.S. News & World Report website, the organization factored in the University’s high average freshman retention rate of 97 percent, smaller class sizes and the level of per-student spending (the money a school spends on instruction, research, student services and related educational expenditures) in determining its number ten spot this year. 

However, these criteria do not paint a full picture of life at Hopkins. Small class sizes and generous per-student spending can indicate a wealth of experiences and resources for undergraduates. However, they do not account for all aspects of student life, such as the quality of mental health services, the inclusion of student voices in administrative decisions and overall student satisfaction with their undergraduate experience. 

Mental health is one of the defining aspects of the undergraduate experience. According to a February report by the University’s Task Force on Student Mental Health and Well-Being, nearly 30 percent of undergraduate students have seriously considered suicide. Hopkins students indicated that their workloads and futures were “very stressful” at higher rates than students at peer institutions. These statistics are alarming, and actually don’t even take into consideration every student’s input. Even though 16,104 students received the survey, only 14.1 percent responded

We acknowledge that administrators are rolling out several new changes to the Counseling Center, including the addition of new Drop-In Hours during each weekday and bringing clinicians to Brody Learning Commons for informal visits as a part its Consult with a Counselor program. We hope that the administration continues to work hard to address the recommendations given by the Task Force on Student Mental Health and Student Well-Being. 

We also encourage administrators to think about how to include Hopkins students in decisions and about how students can build community and feel more connected to Hopkins and Baltimore. Our Student Government Association has limited influence and we as students have noticed the lack of school spirit at Hopkins and the disconnect that students feel towards the very city we live in. Since student groups are an integral part of how students build community, we feel that the 2017-2018 ban on new student arts groups does not help the lack of spirit at Hopkins either. 

University administrators are working on addressing these and other concerns. In Spring 2017, the Office of the Provost created the second Commission on Undergraduate Education (CUE2) to collect input from students on how to improve their experience. The initial report will come out in late fall of this year and we hope that the University will seriously consider the recommendations from CUE2 and make long-term improvements to undergraduate student life.

We are the nation’s first research institution, so in some ways it’s fitting that we are focused on outcomes, performances, numbers and ranking. However, we were also founded on a liberal arts philosophy that encourages us to collaborate, build communities and think critically about the world around us.

Rankings are ultimately short-term achievements, and we should focus on a long-term mission to make this institution the best that it can be, no matter where we fall on a list.

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