Four Corners with the Editors: Does Ranking Matter?

Caitlin Antonios: UCI is ranked 9th among national public universities by US News and World Report and 39th nationally. So does ranking matter? Because if you guys are part of the Facebook-official Class of 2020 page, a lot of older people come in and say, “Freshmen, I know UCI isn’t ranked that great, but there’s so many great things about UCI.” And every time I see that, I’m like, “Why do you have to start it out that way?” because one, we are, and two, there’s so much value placed on it. So, what are your takes on ranking?

Jared Alokozai: Clever marketing strategy. People like to quantify things. It makes it easy to understand complex, messy differences and values between different colleges.

CA: Did it affect you guys when you were applying?

Jessica Resendez: Kind of. People were like,”Well, you know it’s not that known,” but that’s why I kinda like it, because it’s not known.

Roy Lyle: Yeah, it’s not UCLA. Everyone in California compares it to UCLA or Berkeley.

JA: If you say UCLA in China or South Korea, they know what you’re talking  about. If you say UCI they’re like, well…    There’s like a tier system in the UCs, so UCI would be like second tier after SB or Davis.

RL: I feel like, after UCLA and Berkeley, it’s all the same. Despite their rankings, they’re all world class universities. There’s no UC that’s bad. Same thing can be said about CalStates. We’re lucky to be in California. The schools here are great in general.

JA: I don’t know if it’s competitive or a need for competition.

RL: It’s an-old fashioned bragging right. It’s like how people want to go to Harvard. Schools that are older have longer histories, and therefore more awards.

JA: And wealthy alumni.

RL: Yeah.

Ashley Duong: I feel like, for a lot of those schools, it’s less about being in school and more about being a brand. It’s not even because you went to Harvard, it’s because you get to wear the sweatshirt. It’s not about the education you’re receiving.

RL: In a very superficial sense, I guess rankings and prestige matter in that people, for whatever reason, care about that, and they like seeing certain names on resumes. But at the end of the day it doesn’t matter whether you go to CSULB or Stonybrook or Yale, because you’re all going to get a job. You’re fine.

JR: My question is, who’s ranking these schools?

JA: Right! That’s another thing. Why does the Sierra Club have any say in cool schools? I feel like there’s a lot of money and exchanging hands. So I’m sure there’s backdoor deals and certain communities being created for the purpose of ranking the schools.

RL: Especially when it’s mostly self-reported stuff.

CA: I think a lot of it is based on research, which is why research universities are such a big deal. It’s more like what the school produces in terms of research and how much they get done. That has a large part in it.

JA: Even then, research, especially scientific research, is beholden to the industry. It’s political, and it’s market-driven. And I know we’re not doing nearly as much breakthrough scientific research as we could be doing.

RL: Hey, we unboiled the egg!

CA: We accidentally made a lifelong battery!

RL: My only problem with [rankings] is that they are vague and they only say that this school is good in general. They don’t necessarily tell you what’s good about the school. You go to Yale or Harvard for law or business, but you don’t necessarily go there for something else. Schools are specialized.

JA: Speaking of specialization, rankings aren’t personal. They don’t take into account your taste, or your experiences, or even just the vibe on campus that you might be feeling. They make it easy for people to make reactionary decisions about schools. It makes it so that you don’t have to think about it if you go to a top 50 school, and you’re like, “Well, it should be good enough, right?”

CA: Has it ever come up or affected a conversation or a relationship with someone who is going to a school that’s higher ranked? I talked to UCLA people, and there is definitely a sense of superiority.

I was talking to someone from the Daily Bruin and she said, “Oh, it must be so cute to work for a small paper.”

RL: It must be nice working for a paper where you have that much funding. You don’t have to do that much harder work. You have everything set up for you.

JR: Yeah, you also have to look at how much is going into the school to provide for them.

RL: Have you guys seen USC’s newsroom? It’s like literally this all glass building and you look into their classroom and it looks like a CNN newsroom. They have TVs attached to the walls, brand new computers, there’s hundreds!

AD: I just think it’s interesting how rank is suddenly linked to the quality of work at the school. I feel like there are lower ranked schools that are doing just as many great things, but they’re discredited.

JR: We’re doing what we can with what we’re given.

JA: This speaks to the larger issue of funding and alumni networks. Why does Harvard have billions of dollars coming back to it, not being spent, and we have to deal with crumbs, and more and more austere funding from the state?

AD: I was reading this thing from Finland and their education system, and how they have one of the best public education systems in the world. The US is always trying to find ways to improve our education system, but the one thing that Finland is always pushing is equality. I feel that with the funding thing, if there’s a more even playing field, it wouldn’t matter. Rank wouldn’t matter as much. I think that’s the thing in Finland — it’s less about competition and more about cooperation. No matter where parents send their kids to school, it’s all the same. They have choices, but they’re still getting the same quality education.

JA: Right. And this ranking thing keeps the entire higher education system top heavy. It keeps the elite schools elite and keeps, say, the University of New York or underfunded schools underfunded and maybe producing lower quality work.

Caitlin Antonios is the Opinion Editor.

Jared Alokozai is the Arts and Entertainment Associate Editor.

Jessica Resendez is the Features Editor.

Roy Lyle is the News Editor.

Ashley Duong is the Copy Editor.