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.
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.
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.
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