If you are in any way connected to American higher education, you have had to live through 24+ hours of blather about the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings of colleges and universities in the U.S.
All across America there is jubilation, gnashing of teeth, hand wringing, self-satisfied smirking, sadness, and relief-that-we-didn’t-go-down-a-spot.
Honestly, I could care less about these and any other ranking of American colleges and universities. Why? Because not one of the rankings that flood the airwaves captures the educational experiences of the 99% of college students who don’t attend one of America’s elite institutions.
Just so you understand, when we talk about “America’s Top Colleges” as though they were somehow representative of higher education in this country, we are guilty of such gross over simplification that if one of our students did that in an essay, we’d probably give him a D-. As evidence for this gross conflation of the elite institutions with higher education, I offer the following:
The top two institutions in this year’s USNews rankings are Princeton University and Williams College. Princeton’s endowment floats around $21 billion dollars. Williams College’s endowment is in the $2 billion plus range. Between them, they enroll about 10,000 students. Princeton’s endowment per student is almost $2.6 million and Williams’ is around $1.1 million.
By contrast, in the states where these elite institutions live, Montclair State University enrolls around 20,000 students and has an endowment just over $55 million. UMass Lowell enrolls around 17,500 students and has an endowment of just under $80 million. Montclair State’s endowment per student is almost $2,800 and UMass Lowell’s is almost $4,500. Thus, Princeton has more than 900 times the endowment per student of Montclair State and Williams has 244 times the endowment of UMass Lowell.
Princeton and Williams together enroll just over 10,000