Nov. 16, 2015

Cleveland State University's performance doesn't coincide with president's ranking

By Sara Liptak

Every year, various “best of” lists and rankings make their regular news rounds, and colleges and universities jump on the chance promote their stand-out qualities among the nation’s thousands of post-secondary institutions.

Cleveland State is no different, but after examining a handful of those lists, I’ve found some interesting comparisons.

According to Forbes magazine’s 2015 rankings for America’s top schools, Cleveland State University is rated 641 out of 650 schools on the list. Meanwhile, Niche, a ranking and review site, has an updated 2016 best colleges list which dubbed Cleveland State 569 out of 1,164.

It’s clear, based on the difference in sample size and where Cleveland State happens to fall on both lists, that these organizations use different methods to generate their rankings.

Upon further research, I uncovered that Forbes’ methodology uses five general categories: student satisfaction, post-graduate success, student debt and graduation rate. Niche, on the other hand, uses student survey responses and data reported directly from more than 1,100 higher education institutions, covering areas like post-graduate readiness, academics, campus living, location, diversity and athletics.

To know the national ranking of a college or university can be useful, especially for those considering attending a school, presently attending a school, or teaching and working at that school. All involved, whether students or employees, want that school to be well regarded.

Because school ranking list-makers use different criteria to create them, no single national list exists, so it is difficult to determine if Cleveland State deserves the rankings it has received.

Some persons who have observed changes in the university over time note many positive developments at the university since it began in 1964, and suggest it deserves higher recognition than it has thus far accrued.

Colleges and universities are not the only ones being graded on their performance, however.

Last month, Cleveland State University President Ronald M. Berkman was in the news for his contract extension, which The Cleveland Stater reported Oct. 5. He also has been on a list of fairly recent rankings, even before his contract extension, because of his compensation in comparison with administrators at other public universities.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on June 12, 2015 that Berkman’s compensation ranked 33 out of 328 chief executives at 220 public universities during the 2014 fiscal year.

One might assume that a president who is so highly compensated would represent an equally highly regarded school.

But based on the numbers, it would appear that the school, unlike its well performing president, isn’t performing as well itself – even as the new ranking updates roll in on the university’s website.

So how is the compensation ranking for the president of Cleveland State so much higher than the school he is operating? Could it be that Cleveland State simply isn’t in the same league as its president?

The discrepancy between the university’s ranking and the president’s raises some concerns for me.

This is not to say that Berkman isn’t doing great things for our university – as he is. However, a chief administrator’s high ranking would usually suggest a more positive image – and performance – for his school.

Because of Cleveland State’s lower performance in various rankings reports, either the compensation is inappropriate or the assessment of the university is.

For a discussion of this story, visit The Cleveland Stater on Facebook.

Return to The Cleveland Stater Home Page.


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