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Ranking Colleges on Educational Quality
August 24, 2010 7:29 AM   Subscribe

Washington Monthly has released its annual college rankings, which focus on a univerisity's contribution to the public good, including the number of ROTC and peace corps graduates relative to size, the percentage of work study spent on community service, the percentage of students served recieving Pell grants, and quality of research. UCSD, Morehouse College and St. Mary's University of Texas were big winners. Alongside it, feature articles on college dropout factories, the bare-bones education experience at University of Minnesota-Rochester and the ever-increasing amenities and costs of George Washington University.
posted by l33tpolicywonk (91 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm imagining the ROTC is counted with the peace corps people rather than against.
posted by jtron at 7:38 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the link about GW:

What Trachtenberg understood was that perception is reality in higher education—and perception can be bought. “You can get a Timex or a Casio for $65 or you can get a Rolex or a Patek Philippe for $10,000. It’s the same thing,” Trachtenberg says. The former president gambled that students who couldn’t quite get into the nation’s most exclusive colleges—and who would otherwise overlook a workmanlike school like the old GW—would flock to a university that at least had a price tag and a swank campus like those of the Ivy Leagues. “It serves as a trophy, a symbol,” he says. “It’s a sort of token of who they think they are.”

I'm amazed he actually said that aloud.
posted by anniecat at 7:39 AM on August 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


The ROTC does not contribute to the public good. [see: empires, decline of]
posted by Joe Beese at 7:42 AM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


The only thing I know for sure when I hear of someone who went to GW is that they paid way, way too much for their education.
posted by contessa at 7:43 AM on August 24, 2010


The university went on a high-class building spree, financed by a dizzying series of tuition increases.

Edifice Complex.
posted by exogenous at 7:44 AM on August 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


My ex went to GW for a couple years starting in 2002. That sounds about right. (That didn't really describe my ex, though, which is part of the reason why she transferred to her state's flagship public university.)

And I'm pretty sure that there are some schools that have been able to attract more students simply by raising the tuition and making no other changes. People have so little idea what they're buying that they're reduced to concluding that if a school is expensive, it must be good.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:45 AM on August 24, 2010


I'm not! GW is a hole. I regard my GW diploma as an embarrassment (though they do have a pretty nice geography dept).
posted by troika at 7:48 AM on August 24, 2010


that is, I'm not surprised he said that.
posted by troika at 7:48 AM on August 24, 2010


Yeah, count me among the folks that are more than a little confused by ROTC counting toward the public good. It's certainly a program of opportunity for the individual students, and provides scholarships, but they come at the cost of enrollment in a military that's currently doing national and worldwide harm, rather than good, largely on the backs of the poor.

In a different era, in which our Department of Defense didn't adhere to a mantra of "the best defense is a good offense," I could see the ROTC as a good. Certainly divisions such as the Army Corps of Engineers could be doing great things to fix some of our decrepit national infrastructure, or going worldwide to help more people out. In this era, though? We're training young men and women to fight wars that make absolutely no sense until you realize that many senators and congressmen are beholden to military contractors.
posted by explosion at 7:51 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I've always viewed ROTC membership as a marker for stupidity.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:55 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm sort of surprised that an institution with a graduation rate of 6% could be the 116th highest ranked Liberal Arts college (Allen University).
posted by ghharr at 7:56 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


huh, I think Stanford is in the same place on both this list and the "real" one (USN&WR)

I know some people who participated in ROTC for one year. There's no long-term commitment if you drop out after a year, but they pay your tuition anyway. Win-win.
posted by phunniemee at 7:58 AM on August 24, 2010


I find the dismissive attitude towards ROTC to be unwarranted. According to some of you, I graduated from a college of pure evil.

Anyway, the better educated and trained military officers are, the better they assist the military in doing good. They can't choose the mission, but they can make its execution cleaner and more humane.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:59 AM on August 24, 2010 [26 favorites]


oh come on. You and I may be anti-ROTC but arguing the military isn't public service is bullshit. Also ROTC helps on the social mobility count as it does contribute towards tuition.
posted by JPD at 8:00 AM on August 24, 2010 [3 favorites]



The ROTC does not contribute to the public good. [see: empires, decline of]


Hurf Durf your momma wears combat boots.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:02 AM on August 24, 2010


Kind of surprised to see Hampshire not on there - nearly every senior thesis is about social change. But hey, the ROTC is like, a tool of the man, so there's no like, way to quantify service by their fascist standards. Man.
posted by sonika at 8:03 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I did ROTC on a full scholarship for 2 years before dropping out. I can definitely say that it doesn't contribute to the public good at all. Their whole program seemed focus on glorifying and romanticizing infantry combat. I was at Liberty University at the time—Jerry Falwell's school—and everybody seemed absolutely *THRILLED* that they might be able to go to Iraq and fight for Jesus and GW. I think 75-80 applied to have their MOS be Infantry, Aviation, or Cavalry.

And now I owe the Army around 40k. Yippee.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:04 AM on August 24, 2010


In re the ROTC hate:

Most ROTC graduates go into the Reserves (it's what the "R" stands for) or the National Guard, where they continue to serve as an important link between the civilian and the military worlds, which have been getting more and more partitioned off from each other over the last generation.

Also, there are three ways to make military officers: West Point/Annapolis/Air Force Academy (four to six years of going to college among only other people going into the military), Officer Candidate/Training School (enlisted persons going to a military course to receive a commission, generally after earning enough college credits taken in on-base classes), and ROTC. You really don't like the option that exposes a future leader of military personnel to a non-military environment for several years?
posted by Etrigan at 8:05 AM on August 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Hampshire does poorly on a couple of their metrics. Aside from ROTC, Hampshire has a relatively terrible attrition rate given the demographics (expected/actual graduation rate, rank 223). There's a link at the bottom to 101-252, Hampshire clocks in at 134.

Nice to see that their "research" category takes what Hampshire does into account, but man do we have a crappy graduation rate.
posted by contrarian at 8:09 AM on August 24, 2010


I went to Washington University in St. Louis, which likes to call itself the Ivy of the Midwest. One year, the new chancellor announced that tuition would be raised quite a bit (more than it was, on average, being raised at that time). When asked why, he said point-blank that our tuition needed to be on par with the school one ahead of us in the national rankings. In other words, not to pay for better equipment, facilities, or teaching, but merely for appearances' sake.

Bah.
posted by notsnot at 8:09 AM on August 24, 2010


SJCA is ranked #2 for Peace Corps entries (well, pound for pound). Nice to see our Hippy Johnnies are good for something ;-)
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:18 AM on August 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


I did ROTC on a full scholarship for 2 years before dropping out. I can definitely say that it doesn't contribute to the public good at all.

Sucks that you had a bad experience, but

I was at Liberty University at the time—Jerry Falwell's school—and everybody seemed absolutely *THRILLED* that they might be able to go to Iraq and fight for Jesus and GW.

it might not represent a typical ROTC program.
posted by domnit at 8:22 AM on August 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


Apparently I went to the #1 national university. Does this mean I can ask for a raise?
posted by Thoughtcrime at 8:27 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The link to the article about UMN-Rochester's really interesting. I work at the Twin Cities campus, and frankly had no idea that the setup down in Rochester was so good. The Rochester campus more or less sprang into being because of political horse trading, and I never really figured it would amount to much... it's awesome to be wrong about that.
posted by COBRA! at 8:29 AM on August 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hey, alma mater (Reed) is #1 for Peace Corps!
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:30 AM on August 24, 2010


Having spoken to a few people who've taught at Huston-Tillotson, I was really surprised it only ranked #41 on the dropout factory list. A 17% graduation rate seems like the school wouldn't (or shouldn't) be able to continue. But then there are 14 with graduation rates below 10%.
posted by sanko at 8:32 AM on August 24, 2010


One year, the new chancellor announced that tuition would be raised quite a bit (more than it was, on average, being raised at that time).

Out of curiosity, who was that?
posted by invitapriore at 8:35 AM on August 24, 2010


it might not represent a typical ROTC program.

I certainly hope not, but no one seems to mind.

At least about the whole religion in the military bit. Maybe ROTC programs are different?

/derail
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:42 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Apparently I went to the #1 national university. Does this mean I can ask for a raise

Cultivating the idea of exceptionalism by proxy is the raison d'etre of name universities.
posted by camcgee at 8:47 AM on August 24, 2010


The article on dropout factories is devastating and very much worth reading.

I had ignorantly assumed that if a college admits almost everyone who applies, of course they'll get a lot of dropouts -- people with financial troubles, people whose life circumstances interfere, people who aren't really ready for college. But if you have a 3.6 GPA in high school and you study hard in school but the administration keeps thwarting your attempts to get a tutor or financial aid or proper advising, there is something very wrong.
posted by Jeanne at 8:59 AM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


The link to the article about UMN-Rochester's really interesting. I work at the Twin Cities campus, and frankly had no idea that the setup down in Rochester was so good. The Rochester campus more or less sprang into being because of political horse trading, and I never really figured it would amount to much... it's awesome to be wrong about that.

It looks really cool. I was struck at how much excess is built into the modern educational system.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:07 AM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Harvard and Stanford are still in the Top 10 so this isn't a complete inversion of the usual lists.

That said, I am glad they give a lot of attention to UCSD. That is a seriously underrated university. Their computer science program is among the best in the world. So is their biochem and their medical programs. Throw in the fact that the whole campus sits on beautiful, prime land full of ocean cliffs and you almost have the perfect unversity.
posted by vacapinta at 9:08 AM on August 24, 2010


But if you have a 3.6 GPA in high school and you study hard in school but the administration keeps thwarting your attempts to get a tutor or financial aid or proper advising, there is something very wrong.

Didn't look up the last college I went to, but I'm sure its dropout rate is high. I know that in the almost 4 years I was there, I didn't see my advisor once.

why no I did not graduate why do you ask
posted by jtron at 9:09 AM on August 24, 2010


I'm imagining the ROTC is counted with the peace corps people rather than against.

There should be an ROTC style program that leads towards things like the Peace Corps. I'm sure there are programs here and there that are something like that, but if there was something on a national scale, that would rock.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:13 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ha, suck it Aggies! \m/
posted by kmz at 9:17 AM on August 24, 2010


There should be an ROTC style program that leads towards things like the Peace Corps. I'm sure there are programs here and there that are something like that, but if there was something on a national scale, that would rock.

The US Public Service Academy intends to provide a civilian answer to the military academies. I think Public Service Corps at other schools would be a logical extension of that.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:19 AM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not getting the hate-on for the ROTC either. Dictates of DADT aside, it's a worthy program. I only have close association with 2 people who did ROTC in university, and they're two of the smarter people that I know. One had a long and interesting career in military intelligence (don't laugh), and the other is a chemical engineer. Neither are dummies or functionaries. The upside to ROTC is that you definitely have a job right out of university if you want one, and in this day and age that's more than most can guarantee.
posted by contessa at 9:29 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not sure how/why they separated the schools into categories, but it's worth noting that among the "National Universities", 43 (out of 258, 16.7%) scored a 60 or better, along with 43 (of 252 17.1%) of the "Liberal Arts Colleges", 62 (of 551 11.2%) of the "Master's Universities" and 22 (of 309 7.1%) of the "Baccalaureate Colleges". I'm using that cut-off point because that's what my alma mater got (while the college I started at but transferred out of got a 43, justifying my decision). Hmmm... Weird Al's alma mater (which I had seriously considered and where I would've been two years ahead of him) scored a 61. So I could've done better.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:29 AM on August 24, 2010


Hmm. Just moved to the DC area so the husband can start grad school at GW. Guess we'll see whether we agree with the assessment here in a few months.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:34 AM on August 24, 2010


The upside to ROTC is that you definitely have a job right out of university if you want one, and in this day and age that's more than most can guarantee.

It's not if you want one. If you graduate the ROTC program, you have to take the job.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:45 AM on August 24, 2010


Count me in as another person disgusted with America's military adventures but absolutely supportive of ROTC programs at "civilian" universities. It's absolutely critical that future officers have experience working and learning in a civilian environment, and are able to obtain an education that goes beyond the military regimen available at the academies. The ROTC students who I new at Stanford (Stanford banned its on-campus program due to the military's discrimination against gays, so folks there get training through the Berkeley program) were very impressive people and I'm sure that they're now a credit to the officers corps.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 9:50 AM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


PhoBWan, if you read the article the point isn't that attending GW is a bad time, it's just not worth the absurd price tag. I know lots of folks who went there and got financial aid and learned a lot. As the article states, higher costs does mean you can have lots of amenities as a school and get (some) decent professors. The downsides are: A. You have to deal with many rich kids who can't get into Harvard. B. Many middle class kids with inordinate amounts of debt compared to potential future earnings. C. Essentially an equal educational experience as a state school that costs 1/4 as much. D. The short term success of GW's strategy may decline cruelly soon, yet many other colleges are imitating it.

Also I love these rankings. I hope they become the new standard (and not just cuz my alma mater is #50 in liberal arts WOOT!)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:54 AM on August 24, 2010


A whole host of second-tier national universities operate in the same manner: they spend on the things that U.S. News measures, and they pay for them with practices that U.S. News doesn’t care about, like student loans.
is buried in the middle of the article on GW. And to me looks like a clear statement of The Problem. If U.S. News (isn't it weird that such an irrelevant publication has so much power?) started assessing things that actually matter to education, schools would start actually caring about them.

There's also this gem:
When I asked GW if I could see the results of its Collegiate Learning Assessment, a study of institutional academic progress that the Council for Aid to Education, a nonprofit, has carried out at hundreds of schools, the university did not respond. This isn’t unusual; most institutions keep their CLA results closely concealed and actively resist efforts to allow consumer comparisons on that basis. But that leaves precious few markers of academic quality by which to measure such schools.
So we have a decent measure of university academic quality, not tied to an irrelevant publication... but it is kept private.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:57 AM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


The GW point is fair, but remember there is an entire class of small private liberal arts schools that exist solely to educate the not very intelligent children of the wealthy.
posted by JPD at 9:58 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the reasoning behind a high dropout rate being a negative for a school. Couldn't it be the case that people drop out because the education is rigorous? Wouldn't people be more likely to stay at a school where the courses are easy and there is rampant grade inflation? Just goes to show you that however you rank colleges, it's a meaningless endeavor. My alma mater (#50 liberal arts school) refuses to fill out the surveys.

On GW, I thought people paid the high prices to make connections in government.
posted by ekroh at 9:58 AM on August 24, 2010


It's not if you want one. If you graduate the ROTC program, you have to take the job.

Well, yeah, that. But I mean, it's a sure thing you'll get one, versus not-joining-ROTC and it being a crapshoot.
posted by contessa at 10:04 AM on August 24, 2010


It's not if you want one. If you graduate the ROTC program, you have to take the job.

That's the point of a contract. Most of the time when you recieve federal funding for a program, you have to take the job in the arena specified. I certianly know this is true for the federal funding for the teaching programs that I'm aware of; you must commit to teaching, and (depending on contract) may also be obliged to teach in critical locations. The government wouldn't pay you if they didn't need you.

As for not wanting to be an officer, why would you be in ROTC then?

I have a lot of beefs with a lot of aspects of the military and the contract structure, but they can't take a hit for having contracts in the first place as they are pervasive in civilian public and government service as well.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:05 AM on August 24, 2010


If you graduate the ROTC program, you have to take the job.

If you were on scholarship, and if you elect active-duty, and if your service wants you, then yes. But if you're just taking the classes, you're under no obligation whatsoever. I don't know what the current numbers are, but for most of the '90s, the majority of cadets -- even full-scholarship ones -- went into the Reserves. Also, there are Guaranteed Reserve Forces Duty scholarships, which are just what they sound like. Yes, there is always some chance of your Reserve unit getting called up, but it's not quite as "you have to take the job" as you may think.
posted by Etrigan at 10:05 AM on August 24, 2010


Several weeks ago, I was at the playground with my kid, and struck up a conversation with another family who, as it turns out, were professors at Southern University in Baton Rouge.

SUBR is, largely regarded as a joke, but, owing to its HBCU status and the disproportionate number of the state's black elite who come from the school, it's largely left to its own devices. (I owe a huge personal and professional debt to SUBR, and I thereby find it immoral to criticize the university too harshly).

Speaking with one of the profs, he said that if the state really wanted to fix its higher education budget problem, it could simply shutter Southern University in New Orleans.
After the storm, SUNO moved its student body to SUBR. The prof nformed me that most SUNO students were completely lost in basic subject areas, and the quality of education was so poor that the only 'acceptable' solution would be to level the whole campus.

I thought him quite a bit callous.

And then I read that SUNO's got the worst college dropout rate in the nation.

Makes sense now.
posted by The Giant Squid at 10:11 AM on August 24, 2010


oh come on. You and I may be anti-ROTC but arguing the military isn't public service is bullshit. Also ROTC helps on the social mobility count as it does contribute towards tuition.

This. My father would not have been able to afford a college education w/o the 100% tuition assistance. He got a mechanical engineering degree, the Navy got a first lieutenant for three years.

(Another institution that I dislike -- the Catholic Church -- funded Dad's education at a Jesuit high school, and the quality of the curriculum there is probably why he's as conversant with Jane Austen and the Trout Quintet as with the second law of thermodynamics.)
posted by virago at 10:27 AM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


PhoBWan, if you read the article the point isn't that attending GW is a bad time, it's just not worth the absurd price tag.

Yeah, though I do wonder if things will be a bit different since this is graduate school and all. It came down to a choice between George Mason and George Washington for him, and GW was actually the more affordable option and was closer to his research interests.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:34 AM on August 24, 2010


Officer Candidate/Training School (enlisted persons going to a military course to receive a commission, generally after earning enough college credits taken in on-base classes)

Apologies for being pedantic, but OCS is open to civilians with college degrees as well. Prior enlisted service is not required for OCS. So those folks should have plenty of exposure to the civilian world before becoming military leaders. Just saying.

Their whole program seemed focus on glorifying and romanticizing infantry combat. I was at Liberty University at the time

I'm going to wager that Liberty is not a typical experience for college students in general, much less ROTC programs. I did some ROTC at a state school, and the emphasis was absolutely on getting a scholarship to pay for college. There was way more rah rah war is glorious crap when I enlisted.
posted by lullaby at 10:40 AM on August 24, 2010


Whoa, I know a bunch of folks in the tiny grad school program at UMR but I didn't know their brand-new undergrad program was well-regarded.

I'm not sure it's correct to call it cheaper than a regular university -- the main University of Minnesota campus and the Mayo Clinic attract tons of top researchers and pay them well, and then the Rochester campus gets to borrow their time for cheap. And I know when I was 18 I thought the beautiful campus and giant library and dorms and cafeteria were the main point of college, I would have been embarrassed to tell relatives that I went to a school located on the top floor of a shopping mall.

But it seems to me the ingredients for a similar school -- high demand for bio majors, lots of nearby bio researchers, very expensive and mediocre bio programs in local schools -- come together at a number of different places in the country, and those places could copy the idea pretty easily.
posted by miyabo at 10:49 AM on August 24, 2010


I'm a GWU Alumni and I lived through the Stephen Joel Tratchenberg early years and I think he did a great job. When I went there the school had a reputation as mostly a party school for rich kids who couldn't get into Georgetown. What Tratchtenberg realized is that those rich kids wanted the DC experience. They had the economic means to pay a premium for the experience. By raising tuition he was able to get the money necessary to improve academic programs, facilities and also offer scholarships to students like me who had good grades and high SAT scores but couldn't afford Georgetown.
posted by humanfont at 10:52 AM on August 24, 2010



If you were on scholarship, and if you elect active-duty, and if your service wants you, then yes. But if you're just taking the classes, you're under no obligation whatsoever.


After your second year of MS classes, you have to either go on contract or are unable to continue the program. The contract is usually for 2-4 years active duty or 6-8 years in the reserves (it's been awhile, I can't remember the exact numbers). This is how ROTC kids helped recruit new members. They'd tell everyone how much fun we all had on the range at FTX and we'd get 10-15 new kids a semester. 1-2 would stay for the next semester, and then sign up. For no cash or tuition assistance whatsoever.

Liberty probably had a much stranger dynamic in their ROTC program, but they had to teach the MS classes based on official curriculum. And teaching college kids infantry tactics is a bad idea. Me and this kid learned how to throw hand grenades, fire assault weapons and all sorts of good stuff.

Also, being in the reserves right now isn't exactly the same as it used to be.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:06 AM on August 24, 2010


I'm pretty sure that there are some schools that have been able to attract more students simply by raising the tuition and making no other changes.

Pricing is positioning.

posted by GuyZero at 11:25 AM on August 24, 2010


Liberty probably had a much stranger dynamic in their ROTC program

I'd be willing to bet they've got a stranger dynamic in all of their programs.
posted by contessa at 11:29 AM on August 24, 2010


By raising tuition he was able to get the money necessary to improve academic programs, facilities and also offer scholarships to students like me who had good grades and high SAT scores but couldn't afford Georgetown.

GU and GW have totally different cohorts. The overlap of kids who get into the GU and into GW is very very small and according to that article the likelihood of getting financial aid at GU is greater then it is at GW for most students.
posted by JPD at 11:30 AM on August 24, 2010


"Couldn't it be the case that people drop out because the education is rigorous?"

Check out the article on diploma factories for some details about how/why that's not true. The schools with the highest dropout rates generally have TERRIBLE programs. (Also, dropout is not always "dropout" as you might imagine from, say, high school. If you leave a bad school and graduate from a better one, then you count as a "dropout" for the bad school.)
posted by epersonae at 11:33 AM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Apologies for being pedantic, but OCS is open to civilians with college degrees as well.

I thought about caveatting that, but that's a tiny percentage of officers. These days there's probably more medical officers being directly commissioned in without even having to go to OCS. You can get into a service academy several years after you graduate high school without having enlisted as well, but it doesn't happen much. ROTC remains the commissioning source for the vast majority of officers who've spent some time as adults in the civilian world.
posted by Etrigan at 11:51 AM on August 24, 2010


Nate Fick went to a USMC "summer camp" for officer-curious college students and enlisted as a 2LT as soon as he graduated Dartmouth. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathaniel_Fick (His book "One Bullet Away" was a very interesting read, and of course "Generation Kill" was very good, too.)

Second point: my best friend got a degree from Holy Cross via Navy ROTC and then, due to "budget cuts", was allowed to go, debt-free, after a few years on Individual Ready Reserve. What a deal!

Last point: I work for a small college in Providence. We used to take anyone, but a few years ago the administration realized how badly we were screwing kids by having them flunk out (or bail due to unaffordability) with a huge debt load. We tightened up our admissions standards, and our retention statistics (i.e., how many kids stay all four years) went up at a surprising rate. "Boo" for the kids who won't get in here now, but "yay" for not saddling them with debts and busted dreams.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:29 PM on August 24, 2010


ROTC remains the commissioning source for the vast majority of officers who've spent some time as adults in the civilian world.

True. I wonder if that's not different between the services. I suspect the Marine Corps has a greater proportion of OCS (or PLC, whatever) grads than perhaps the Army. Although, either way, OCS and ROTC alum are less likely to be as socially retarded as officers from the academies.
posted by lullaby at 1:28 PM on August 24, 2010


True. I wonder if that's not different between the services. I suspect the Marine Corps has a greater proportion of OCS (or PLC, whatever) grads than perhaps the Army. Although, either way, OCS and ROTC alum are less likely to be as socially retarded as officers from the academies.

It's probably because the Marines has to piggyback off of NROTC and USNA rather than provide it's own dedicated program.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 1:55 PM on August 24, 2010


For the record (as I've probably made clear here on many an occasion), I'm a pacifist, so I'm not a big fan of the ROTC metric either, but it's clearly a significant enough portion of the methodology to mention.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 2:08 PM on August 24, 2010


I don't really get what the point of the Public Service Academy is. The USMA, USNA, etc. have whole person programs because that's what makes the most effective military officers of a certain type that it's useful for the the military to have. Generic public service doesn't require this.
posted by Jahaza at 3:40 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's easy to eliminate departments like UMinn-Rochester has done when you only have one major and your faculty already have a research structure (the Mayo clinic) in which to organize their research activities. Seems like they're free-riding on that.

Also, that article is quite confused about German vs. English models for the American university:
Understanding what UMR is requires first understanding what it is not: an institution built in the classic mold. That model was established in the late nineteenth century, based on the German research university, and revolves around the individual scholar. In the mind’s eye, we still see men like Newton, hunched over a desk in the stone aeries of Trinity College, revealing the universe through sheer force of cognition. That kind of individuality goes hand in hand with autonomy. And autonomy, more than anything else, has defined the way higher education works today.
Trinity College, Cambridge in the 17th century and 19th Century Heidelberg (for example) are very different models for what a university is as are the ways that American, German, British universities have evolved today. Lectures vs. tutorials, etc. etc.
posted by Jahaza at 3:48 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's easy to eliminate departments like UMinn-Rochester has done when you only have one major and your faculty already have a research structure (the Mayo clinic) in which to organize their research activities. Seems like they're free-riding on that.

To be fair, they never had departments in the first place.
posted by ZeusHumms at 4:15 PM on August 24, 2010


I don't really get what the point of the Public Service Academy is.

Three related things.

One is that it would be nice to have the federal government providing even a few people with a college education with an end-goal that's unrelated to killing human beings and destroying human property.

Another is that the opportunity of a free college education might entice very sharp youngsters into federal service when they might not otherwise have considered it.

The third is that it would allow the feds to structure the program. Presumably the grads would come out with what amounts to a BA in whatever and big chunks of an MPA.

There's no reason they'd have to actually start a university. By the same token, there's no pressing reason the military needs physical academies instead of just running fully through ROTC.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:44 PM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


One is that it would be nice to have the federal government providing even a few people with a college education with an end-goal that's unrelated to killing human beings and destroying human property.

I'd like to know how your version of the FHA operates. And the IRS. And the Dept of Interior.
posted by pwnguin at 5:33 PM on August 24, 2010


I'd like to know how your version of the FHA operates. And the IRS. And the Dept of Interior.

Well that's basically how France works and we know how great that is. Plus there they've mastered the whole lack of a barrier between government and the executive suite in a way that's crazy even by American standards.

ENA
posted by JPD at 5:50 PM on August 24, 2010


Wait, whoops. Somehow I forgot we're talking about paying people in tuition and misread that as "the federal government only hires educated people for killing and destroying."

So then, I guess Federal Student Loan guarantees and Pell grants are problematic because you're free to enlist when you're done?
posted by pwnguin at 6:02 PM on August 24, 2010


I thought about caveatting that, but that's a tiny percentage of officers. These days there's probably more medical officers being directly commissioned in without even having to go to OCS. You can get into a service academy several years after you graduate high school without having enlisted as well, but it doesn't happen much. ROTC remains the commissioning source for the vast majority of officers who've spent some time as adults in the civilian world.

Oddly enough, I'm one of the approximately 8% of Academy Grads that is prior-enlisted. The process is much easy to compete in if you come from that background, though I hear lately that the program has had a drop off compared to other enlisted-to-officer programs.

But anyway, in the Surface Warfare Community, and in the Navy in general probably about the third of the officers I've met have come from OCS and not prior-enlisted. I know this is anecdotal evidence, but there are a significant number of guys that graduate college, can't figure out what job they want to get, and after a year or so sign up for OCS. My colleges in the Aviation program report similar OCS amounts. I can only vouch for Navy though.

True. I wonder if that's not different between the services. I suspect the Marine Corps has a greater proportion of OCS (or PLC, whatever) grads than perhaps the Army. Although, either way, OCS and ROTC alum are less likely to be as socially retarded as officers from the academies.

While I was at the Academy, I used to harp on other midshipmen about how the cloistered life made us less able to interact in the real world as far as things like rent, laundry, and going out without getting trashed. There is a Fleet bias against Academy grads as "ring-knockers" who think they're better than everyone else. When I got to the Fleet, I realized that though there are a few socially-stunted graduates, it's not nearly as bad as I (or others thought). In addition, because of the bias in the Fleet, a lot of us tended to keep our heads down and not talk about the Academy else we be labeled elitist or something like that. It's the OCS guys that I found had the hardest time adjusting to the new lifestyle and often were hit with the strongest wave of cynicism. The Academy grads had already been through 4 years of military disappointment so we couldn't be too surprised when the Fleet didn't turn out to be the magical candyland of self-realization.

So, yes, there are some Academy grads that shouldn't be left around a can-opener, but we're not nearly as social awkward as a group as I imagined us to be.

By the way, as far as federal funding for Academies where the graduates don't have to kill anyone, there is the Coast Guard Academy, the Merchant Marine Academy, and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. All good choices. Yes, I know the Coast Guard can kill people like drug smugglers, but if you want to save dolphins and people or man ice-breakers, that's most of their job.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:17 PM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I asked GW if I could see the results of its Collegiate Learning Assessment, a study of institutional academic progress that the Council for Aid to Education, a nonprofit, has carried out at hundreds of schools, the university did not respond.

Why in the world doesn't the Council for Aid to Education just publish those results straight to their website or something? I don't know what good it does to just give the results to the universities for them to hoard.
posted by invitapriore at 6:22 PM on August 24, 2010


The thing about GW is that, without fail, 100% of its students would rather be at G'town.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:52 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


If they don't take college football programs into account, I ain't listenin'.
posted by bardic at 9:13 PM on August 24, 2010


Yeah, though I do wonder if things will be a bit different since this is graduate school and all. It came down to a choice between George Mason and George Washington for him, and GW was actually the more affordable option and was closer to his research interests.

I personally think GW's grad school (except the law school) is a horrible offender. I'm sure your husband will be fine so long as he doesn't attend one of GW's cash cow master's programs through their School of Continuing Studies that the school aggressively advertises on the Metro and in the free newspaper.
posted by anniecat at 9:20 PM on August 24, 2010


Another is that the opportunity of a free college education might entice very sharp youngsters into federal service when they might not otherwise have considered it.

The third is that it would allow the feds to structure the program. Presumably the grads would come out with what amounts to a BA in whatever and big chunks of an MPA.


With all the competition for Presidential Management Fellows and similar competitive intern programs, I don't think there's any need for a Public Service Academy. There are already a zillion "very sharp" grads vying for all kinds of government jobs. They're still waiting for the feds to call them as they wait around Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle in their coffee shop jobs or temp jobs.
posted by anniecat at 9:29 PM on August 24, 2010


With all the competition for Presidential Management Fellows and similar competitive intern programs, I don't think there's any need for a Public Service Academy.

Sure. But with all the people coming through ROTC and OCS, there's not really any need for the military academies either. But we do have those, and if nothing else it would be good symbolism if there were a service academy leading directly to the civilian civil service too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:17 PM on August 24, 2010


I personally think GW's grad school (except the law school) is a horrible offender. I'm sure your husband will be fine so long as he doesn't attend one of GW's cash cow master's programs through their School of Continuing Studies that the school aggressively advertises on the Metro and in the free newspaper.

Nah, he's in a regular academic program (history, FWIW).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:35 PM on August 24, 2010


Sure. But with all the people coming through ROTC and OCS, there's not really any need for the military academies either. But we do have those, and if nothing else it would be good symbolism if there were a service academy leading directly to the civilian civil service too.

Service academies supply a regimented structure and training that is more indicative of Uniformed Services. However, I did mention three service academies that are less militarily inclined (alright, Coast Guard is pretty iffy, but USUHS is golden when it comes to this.) Symbolism is fine and all, but if it doesn't accomplish the mission that you want out of an institution (strongly centralized training is less desirable when you're producing hundreds of different types of jobs across all fifty states).

As for why do we need the Naval Academy and such? That's a valid question. The big three have been trying to swat away attempts to disestablish them since the 90's. I (and they) tend to think there is value to making that centralized corp for the officer community, but they are rather expensive for their value. I mean, I didn't pay tuition, took as many classes as I wanted to, ate three squares a day, and went to Japan for language training for free. You guys paid for that. As said, I certainly don't think it's a given that they're a good expenditure of resources.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:51 PM on August 24, 2010


I'm not arguing that they should be abolished, only that the fact that we don't need a federal undergraduate academy linked to service in the civil service doesn't mean we can't have one, just as we don't need the military academies doesn't mean that we can't have them and that they don't do arguably useful things.

I was really thinking of something like the Grandes Ecoles.

strongly centralized training is less desirable when you're producing hundreds of different types of jobs across all fifty states

I don't think that the jobs of civil servants are any more diverse than the jobs of military officers, or that civil servants are spread across the US (or world) any more than military officers are.

I mean, I didn't pay tuition, took as many classes as I wanted to, ate three squares a day, and went to Japan for language training for free. You guys paid for that.

We'd have paid for it if you were on a ROTC scholarship too. OTOH, there's also no equivalent for ROTC leading to the civil service, either.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:03 AM on August 25, 2010


I don't think that the jobs of civil servants are any more diverse than the jobs of military officers, or that civil servants are spread across the US (or world) any more than military officers are.

Well, even your employer changes a great deal if you're in the civil service. Employed by a federal system of national, state, and local systems while dealing with a patchwork of different laws. A soil and water commissioner is so far different from a DMV worker that is so far different from a municipal officer. Comparatively, the military is far more uniform. Even if I live in Virginia, I'm certainly not employed by Virginia or the city of Norfolk. We're always federal and always under a very narrow set of procedures and jobs that when looked at side by side with the civil service is far less diverse. We're even part of the same organization as part of the DoD while civil servants don't fall under an umbrella like that (nor should they).

Anyway, my point was I'd much rather see an ROTC-style program launched for future civil service officers as 1) it could be started much sooner, 2) it would allow a much more localized training and internship with members of the civil service, and 3) it would avoid the "need to graduate from the service college to succeed" that Grandes Ecoles has to deal with.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:20 AM on August 25, 2010


So, yes, there are some Academy grads that shouldn't be left around a can-opener, but we're not nearly as social awkward as a group as I imagined us to be.

That's fair enough, and I definitely wouldn't consider it a hard and fast rule, but in my experience the OCS and ROTC officers tended to be better communicators than their West Point counterparts. (On the other hand, the West Pointers were also more likely to know their shit cold from the start.)

Good god, though. I can't imagine spending four years at a service academy after an enlistment.

We'd have paid for it if you were on a ROTC scholarship too.

Yeah, but it costs about double.
posted by lullaby at 8:40 AM on August 25, 2010


Employed by a federal system of national, state, and local systems while dealing with a patchwork of different laws.

Sorry, I thought it was clear I was referring to the federal civil service only. Obviously it was not. (not snarking)

A soil and water commissioner is so far different from a DMV worker that is so far different from a municipal officer. Comparatively, the military is far more uniform.

I think this is a matter of perspective. Manning a silo, driving a Hornet, running a reactor, slogging around in the mud as an infantry lt, processing intel, and managing a procurement seem to me to have very little to do with each other. I imagine you can see what's common there, just as someone who's actively in the civil service can probably see the commonalities between administering a USDA program and administering a DOT program that you or I might not see.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:46 AM on August 25, 2010


Yeah, but it costs about double.

Some of that -- probably most of that -- is because the academies really are more expensive. Small colleges with lots of services are going to be.

But some of the difference is also surely just because in ROTC, the feds just pay tuition+fees, not the full cost of education. If the feds send someone through ROTC at one of the SUNYs, for example, it'll cost the feds about $5K in tuition... and cost the state of NY another $10K or so in state aid to SUNY. Not financial aid to the student, but the state's payment of operating costs.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:05 AM on August 25, 2010


Sorry, I thought it was clear I was referring to the federal civil service only. Obviously it was not. (not snarking)

Alright, that does make it more uniform as far as organizational rules though you still have things that are rather different from say the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Transportation; the military is all under one command system.

Also, remember that despite all the different jobs in Surface Navy like boatswain, IT, cooking, radar operation, there's really just standard surface warfare officers for it. The primary trade of an officer is leadership. You should know enough about the ship to be competent, but your enlisted are always going to be the specialists that have a much more in-depth knowledge. Very rarely do you work in a field directly related to your education. I, for example, was an English Major and I still was tasked with running fire controlmen (manages the missile system onboard). I need to know enough about what they do, but mostly, my job is to lead and manage and support.

I don't think we lack for applicants on the federal level though; I think our biggest drought of talent is non-federal civil service. That is the area that I would like to see focused on much more, though if we can help lend the same amount of prestige to the civil service as we do to the military world in this country.

Good god, though. I can't imagine spending four years at a service academy after an enlistment.


You know, I thought it would be pretty bad too. I mean, I went from having a car, an apartment, a job that didn't care what I was doing in my off time to a place where I lost all of that. Heck, I wasn't even allowed to drink during my first year despite being 22 at the time. But ya know, it really wasn't that bad and it gave me a dose of humility that we all need. It's easy to waltz in and act like you're too good for something, but I'm glad that I went through the same things as everyone else (and hopefully imparted my perspective to those around me). Plus, after awhile, I really started to enjoy the academic part of the Academy. We have some top-notch professors and military instructors. Sure I didn't get to smoke pot in the quad or anything, but I came away from my four years with a good taste in my mouth, some of the best friends in my life, and really rounding out myself quite a bit. While at first I was bitter at my loss of freedom, I did have a lot of fun and did some really unique things. I would even encourage it to other young enlisted that have the desire to become an officer and want to study at a great academic school.

Sorry, got a bit off topic there . . .
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:02 AM on August 25, 2010


It's easy to eliminate departments like UMinn-Rochester has done when you only have one major and your faculty already have a research structure (the Mayo clinic) in which to organize their research activities. Seems like they're free-riding on that.

The more I think about the article, the more I like the school. Yes, they did have a significant unfair advantage by not having to pay for lab space or startup costs for their professors. But they're also saving a ton by not paying for the library, cafeteria, dorms, rec center, big landmark buildings, or subsidies for low-enrollment majors that virtually every other college and university is stuck with. Almost all of a student's tuition goes directly to that student's education, which is how things should work but rarely do.

We need some comprehensive universities that offer good quality programs in every conceivable field. But most universities that aspire to this goal don't reach it, and most students have some idea what they want to do before they start school. It makes a lot of sense for new colleges to limit themselves to a handful of excellent academic programs, and forget about everything else.
posted by miyabo at 11:41 AM on August 25, 2010


Sure I didn't get to smoke pot in the quad or anything, but I came away from my four years with a good taste in my mouth, some of the best friends in my life, and really rounding out myself quite a bit.

You would have been welcome to come across the street to St. John's and smoke pot on our quad.
posted by hydropsyche at 12:09 PM on August 25, 2010


You would have been welcome to come across the street to St. John's and smoke pot on our quad.

I actually swung by St. John's several times. I had a friend there, and also the Socratic Society at USNA would organize meetups with you all. I'm still thinking of getting a masters degree there though I know it's a rather conservative curriculum. I doubt I'll do the pot smoking there, but I really enjoy St. John's.

And of course, the USNA-St. John's Croquet match is always a lot of fun.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 12:36 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey, alma mater (Reed) is #1 for Peace Corps!

Fuckin' Reedies!
posted by klausness at 12:39 PM on August 25, 2010


I was really thinking of something like the Grandes Ecoles.


You haven't really spent a lot of time around enarques have you?
posted by JPD at 1:08 PM on August 25, 2010


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