Well the rankings are out again, WSU’s College of Engineering ranked 76th out of 215 for 2015 by US News and World Reports for best engineering graduate schools. Ironically, this ranking actually became the lifeblood of US News in the late 1990’s due to popularity. The methodology behind the ranking, no surprise, has evolved over the years due to complaints.
The major score component to the US News rankings is a whopping 25% from a “peer survey”- they send a list of blank lines to program directors around the country who are then tasked with listing the best schools in their area. No surprise, program directors are inclined to positively list the programs they came from, and then the defacto standards (MIT, Stanford, Berkeley,,, Michigan?). Program directors are also often invited to give seminars at other programs to help keep the schools at the top of their minds. So unquestionably, Campbell’s and Goodhart’s laws apply, and if your program produces more graduates you will be more highly ranked due to likelihood of having more alumni as program directors, and if your program has a storied history, that definitely helps too.
The reality of the situation is that the rankings are calcified. Those at the top are in control and get to decide how the game is played ( AAU?). What’s worse, the huge success of the US News rankings demonstrates the unhealthy infatuation our society currently has with rankings. It’s part of the performance-communitarian shift I talk about. Total metric infatuated performance is not sustainable in a crowded field. We’re overdue for a swing back towards the original land grant mission to support our constituent communities, which can sustain us.
Besides, do you really think all of the faculty at MIT are better than those at WSU? Nope. Sorry. Overlapping statistical distributions. The averages may differ, but if you’re picking schools based on averages, you don’t have a good reason to go.
But what about job prospects after graduation? Google is one of the recent companies to announce they are moving away from GPA and school rank in highering practices.
What about a school’s reputation with recruiters? WSU is the only school in the Northwest in the top 25 ranked by the recruiters of the fortune 500.
So why did I come to WSU and why should you come as an undergrad, graduate, or new faculty member? Because we have one of the, if not the most, brightest futures of Research 1 institutes in the US. Let me show you the ways:
- The Puget Sound metropolis and resulting ratio of research faculty to industrial/tech base. Seattle is the fastest growing metro area in the US. Washington is already the top high tech state, with only 2 research institutions. Try to think of a state with better odds!
- Most sustainable living in the US. Half our clean hydro energy is sold to California. That also means water isn’t a problem. Neither are tornadoes, earthquakes, or overpopulation. Even when Mt. St. Helens erupted and dumped the ashcloud on Pullman we were back and running within weeks. Climate change is supposed to make things slightly better here.
- Quality of life and the great outdoors. I walk to work, from my dream home, that’s 0.5 blocks from campus. We’re within 30 minutes of the largest national wilderness in the lower 48. Did I mention the fly fishing?
You choose an organization not by where they are, but by where they are going. Come join the fun.