Thursday, December 14, 2006

Loose Lips Sink Flagships

As I discussed in a couple of earlier posts (here and here), the Education Trust released a report last month on how well flagship state universities serve their mission of providing access to the underprivileged. Penn State flunked almost across the board. However, Bill Mahon, Penn State University flak, was particularly outraged that the report did not recognize what he said were the improvements the institution had achieved with regard to minority enrollment. Let's review what he told Inside Higher Ed.

Some officials bristled. Bill Mahon, a spokesman for Pennsylvania State University, which was among the universities that received an overall grade of F, said in an e-mail that he was “not impressed with the superficial analysis of the statistics [Education Trust] gathered.” Penn State’s F for minority access is ironic, he wrote, given that “we have increased minority enrollment every year for at least the past decade, even though located in a part of a state with an extremely small minority population.” He noted that black enrollment has grown to 4,481 this year from 2,864 in 1996, and that “Penn State (Grade ‘F’) has more than twice the number of minority students enrolled than the entire student body of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (Grade ‘A’).

“Penn State has been on the right track for more than a decade and will continue to move forward on minority enrollment and access issues in the future,” Mahon added. “We are proud of what we have done and where the institution is going.”

Today Inside Higher Ed reports that the Education Trust has re-crunched the number on minority access and the ranking for progress on minority access changed for five institutions.

...[The Education Trust] has reassessed the data it used to grade institutions on how much progress they had made between 1992 and 2004 in access for minority students. The changes altered the grades for five institutions: Four — the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Louisiana State University, the University of Maryland at College Park, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison — now show that they have made meaningful positive progress rather than gone backwards, while one — Pennsylvania State University — now appears to have lost ground instead of gaining it. “The overall grades for all of these schools remain the same, however,” an Education Trust official said in an e-mail message.
No word on what Mahon has to say about this.

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