Saturday, December 23, 2006

Penn State the Griffin of Higher Education

I received a comment today on my post about Spanier's salary from someone calling himself psu grad. I am very glad to see that the blog has generated its first significant feedback. What follows is my response to psu grad.

I am not sure what point you intended to make with your history lesson. It is true that Penn State is an odd beast, not entirely public nor entirely private. However, it is typically grouped with public universities for the sake of comparison and ranking. Even Spanier, who you can be sure understands the public/private ambiguity, considers Penn State primarily a public university when it comes to rankings. Consider these remarks to the Board of Trustees this past Semptember,

The U.S. News rankings are perhaps the most cited of all the rankings, and they too raise a lot of hackles within higher education because of the odd weighting that they give to measures that significantly favor private universities. Traditionally, there are never any public universities in the top 20, despite objective data that would clearly suggest there should be. Penn State was tied for 13th among the nation's public institutions in the U.S. News ranking.

It behooves Spanier to consider Penn State as a public school for the sake of the US News rankings, because it doesn't stack up very well against privates schools. In facts, Spanier doesn't even mention Penn State's overall ranking, because it is at the bottom of the top fifty. The rule here is that Penn State is public. We should not change the rule when we try to place his salary in perspective; it too should be compared to the salaries of other public universities presidents.

Now, Penn State is not above playing games with it status. For example, when it comes to revealing the salaries of its employees it will claim that it is private. This sort on intellectual dishonesty is abhorrent to me. Does it not bother you?

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