Rankings and the quest for excellence in the public higher education institution
Easley, Jennifer Barrett
Bullington, Stanley F
Business decisions are increasingly being made in the higher education institution (HEI) based on their impact to university rankings, sometimes to the detriment of the HEI mission. HEIs are not homogenous, and rankings are inadequate on their own in capturing HEI excellence. This dissertation took a three-pronged approach in addressing quality and excellence in the HEI. First, a case study adapted the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) for a Financial Aid office in a public HEI, illustrating that, with a few modifications, the BSC is an appropriate and holistic approach to addressing quality in the HEI. The primary modification was to place mission at the top of the BSC, reflecting that each of the strategic objectives should be made with mission in mind. Next, survey methods were used to gain insight from upper administrators at public four-year HEIs regarding perceived quality factors. According to survey results, respondents rated Graduation and Retention as the most important indicator of quality. These results were further used to calculate weights of importance for each quality factor, further comparing these weighted factors to methodologies of three rankings systems, and found that the perceived quality factors identified by the respondents did not align with rankings methodologies. Finally, historical data was used to consider which HEIs moved most in their U.S. News and World Report (USNWR) rankings and peer scores. Higher-ranked HEIs were found to have less movement, and lower-ranked HEIs had more movement. Peer scores were found to be variable, although only by incremental amounts. Multiple regression analysis was used to compare USNWR rankings and objective data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and Top American Research Universities (TARU) publication, finding graduation rate to have the strongest relationship with rankings. Ultimately, the wise HEI will find an appropriate mix of aiming for higher rankings and a focus on its mission, and ideally both would be in alignment.