Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Drat! Spoiled Again by Veblen

For the past five years, Washington Monthly has ranked universities according to their purported contribution to  society. Penn State has done very well in the ranking: 2005, 6th  place ;2006, 3rd place; 2007, 5th place; 2008, a presidential election year, the ranking was not done; 2009, 7th place. 

Penn State has been very proud of finishing in the top ten every year. The headline at The Penn State Propaganda Portal the first year that the ranking came out was, "Penn State ranks near the top of magazine's rankings." The next year the headline was more specific , "Penn State third in Washington Monthly national rankings." In 2007, Graham figured that there's money to be made from Penn State's high finish in this sweepstakes.  His spiel to fat cat donors included this,
...the University has improved the lives of countless citizens of the Commonwealth and beyond. In fact, Washington Monthly has ranked Penn State third among all American universities and colleges for fostering social mobility, public service, and economic growth.
Last year The Penn State Propaganda Portal returned to declaring that "Penn State seventh in Washington Monthly national rankings"

I've discussed the faulty nature of this  ranking in the past on several occasions. The biggest problem with the ranking is on it social mobility scale which uses the percentage of students on Pell Grants in  both components which which make up the scale. There have been some problems with the percentages used by the Washington Monthly. The Pell Grant percentage reported for Penn State, 25%, was for the entire school. The actual percentage for University Park has been closer to 15%. You can read my critiques here here and  here.

This year Washington Monthly made an effort to get the Pell Grant percentages right and......drum roll, please............Penn State's Pell Grant percentage, as reported this year, is 13% and Penn State drops like a stone in the ranking to 35th  place.

Here's your challenge. Help out The Old Main Propaganda Shop by writing a headline for this year's press release announcing Penn State's finish in the Washington Monthly ranking or help out Graham directly by suggesting how this 37th place  ranking can be used to separate the filthy rich from their money.The title of this post is my headline suggestion, leave your suggestions in the comments.