Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Administrators Cite Dubious Reasons for Improved Rankings

The newly released 2011 US News & World Report College and University Ratings bring an improved standing for Dartmouth: while the school maintains it's #1 ranking in "Best Undergraduate Teaching" for the second year in a row, it has jumped to #9 in "National Universities," up from #11 in 2010.

In an interview with the Daily D, Provost Carol Folt cited smaller class sizes as one of several reasons for Dartmouth's increased position. However, just a few short months ago the D offered plenty of coverage on what seemed like the college's likely response to the economic downturn: a permanently increased class size, beginning with the class of 2014. According to Dean of Admissions Maria Laskaris in a December interview with the Daily D, "I think it wouldn’t just be for one year, the decision would be to increase the size of the student body more long-term.”

With the new rankings out, all of this seems swept under the rug and the college is more than happy to extol the virtues of its dedication to a small class size. How is it that we were never informed of the final word regarding this "extensive discussion," as President Kim put it? More likely than not, a decision was made, as seems to be the modus operandi of the school these days, without consulting the student body in a meaningful way.

A call to the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students revealed no information on the size of the class of 2014; the office cited a constantly shifting number of newly matriculating students and no available estimates as to their total number. It can only be assumed that if the college has indeed increased class size, they have chosen to keep the final decision incredibly quiet and only the Review is left to cry foul at this unfortunate administrative contradiction.


Anonymous said...

If U.S. News doesn't conflate average class size with the number of incoming students, why should we?

Anonymous said...

Adam is far too smart to make a freshman goof by thinking class size, as in average class size, means class size, as in the size of the incoming class.

No, this is the best parody EVER of a Joe Asch blog posting. It follows Joe's pattern perfectly. Deliberately or ignorantly get the facts wrong, then let them have it with both barrels.

If you watch Saturday Night Live re-runs, you can already hear in your head the "Oh. Never mind."

And you thought a Dartmouth education was a terrible thing to waste...

Anonymous said...

Any increase in the size of the student body is going to lead to an increase in class size, all other things being equal. By the time the 14's are seniors, we'll have an additional 200 students on campus compared to now(not a huge bump in the size of the school, but that's going to be an additional fifty kids in front of me in line at the Hop this next year).

It's bizarre that Folt would tout a supposed advantage that will, in fact, decrease from this point forward.

Adam Schwartzman said...

To clarify: small individual class sizes inescapably depend on a small overall student population.

Considering the fact that throughout the 2009-2010 academic year the school has been making cuts everywhere, including freezing vacant faculty positions, it follows logically that the college, when faced with a greater number of students and a static number of professors, will have no choice but to increase the size of individual classes.

Anonymous said...

No, small individual class sizes do not inescapably depend on a small overall student population.

All things will not be equal. The number of faculty and the number of classes taught are changing all the time. By the time the next class arrives, there might be 15 more profs, or 15 fewer, and every prof might be teaching 1.2 times as many classes as today, or 0.8 times as many.

The average class size is simply the average number of students in every class. Change in the average cannot be estimated based on the size of the freshman class alone.

Anonymous said...

Adam, you are mistaken about a vacant faculty hiring freeze. New faculty are being hired all over the place, although the speed of doing so is slower than in the past.

But the previous commentator makes an especially important point. It is not only the number of faculty but also the number of classes that they teach that affects class size.

So, no, a larger student body does not necessarily translate into an increase in class size.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't take a genius to reason that more students will either lead to the overworking of faculty by making them teach more classes or, the much more probable and practical solution of increased class size. The important thing to take away from this post is that the administration is simultaneously flaunting small class size while pursuing a policy that would more likely than not detract from that very quality of the school.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't take a genius to understand that increasing the total class size makes no difference if the number of faculty also increases and/or the current faculty teach more classes.

Blustery conclusions mean nothing when based on false premises.

DartBored said...

Sounds like they've decided to add 50 students to the class of '14, but haven't decided yet to make this increase permanent and, perhaps more interesting, don't want to attract any attention to the change. They are smart enough to pick 50 full-fare students, so that means $2.5 million of "budget relief". I doubt if they will make additions to faculty, so "class size" will go up a bit too. They may not even add administrators to handle these extra students. That would be a real breakthrough.

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