The College Ranking We Can’t Bring Ourselves to Care About

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There are college rankings for everything these days, from the ridiculous (the college students who have the most sex) to the useful (who has the graduates with the highest starting salaries). And then every now and then there’s a college ranking that’s just kind of… meh.

That’s how I feel about Towson University’s new accolades for being one of the “most efficient” colleges in the nation. Don’t get me wrong — efficiency, which U.S. News defines as “which schools are able to produce the highest educational quality, as determined by their place in our Best Colleges rankings, but spend relatively less money to achieve that quality,” is a good thing. Colleges can hemorrhage money on ridiculous things, and an efficiently-run school passes savings along to students. While schools with huge endowments have what amounts to a free pass to spend on new facilities, high profile hires, and dorm upgrades, schools with tighter budgets need to be smarter about how they spend.

“Towson University’s institutional focus on student needs and success is at the forefront of all decision-making, and I am pleased that our student focus is producing national recognition, once again, for Towson’s affordability and efficient stewardship of resources,” said the university’s new president, Maravene Loeschke, in response to the ranking. (The school’s “financial resources per student” works out to about $12,000 per year — less than half as much as, say, Virginia Tech or Clemson, and well below the wealthy Ivies. The only other Maryland school to make the list was Salisbury University.)

But isn’t calling a school “efficient” sort of like saying that your sister’s new boyfriend is really, um, “nice.” No one picks a college based on how efficiently it appears to be run. Good thing Towson has some other things going for it, too.



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