Ranking Colleges the Moneyball Way

Inside Higher Ed‘s Ryan Craig recently penned an article about implementing the same principles the Oakland A’s general manager, Billy Beane, used to form a better baseball team on, ahem, valuing colleges. It’s called Moneyball, or in this case, Moneycollege.

The concept of  ”moneyball” was that Beane hired and fired his players based on statistics that, although reliable, were generally being ignored by the Old Boys’ Club in favor of less reliable facts and mere opinions.

So how does this relate to college?

Well, Craig argues that just like baseball in the recent past, higher educations focuses on “what’s easy to measure.” In baseball, values of players were assigned based on many superficial “numbers”–height, physique, age, speed of pitches, you know, all the pretty things in life. In higher education, Craig says we’re basically focusing on the equivalent to what they were wrongly concentrating on in baseball: research, rankings and real estate. These are all countable measurements and easily comparable. But unfortunately, those don’t even come close to the measurements that should be taken into account like, uh,  student learning and student outcomes. Duh. Aren’t you curious to know how your college ranks in getting its students hired and happy and healthy following college graduation?

While so many schools are pouring energy into these antiquated measurements, like how many big buildings they have or how much research their faculty can produce in the smallest about of time, they are ignoring what is actually occurring in the academic landscape. States are cutting their budgets, people are afraid to go into debt for an education they’re afraid isn’t worth the reward, and more and more people are taking their education online.

Just like Billy Beane was struggling with a paltry budget to create a World Series-winning team, colleges with small budgets are in the same boat. How can they compete in this game of rankings if they don’t have the research, rankings and real state of colleges with bigger budgets? Well, maybe in the future they’ll be able to beat the system by playing moneycollege. If they can gather the data showing the right stats–students on-base percentage, or in academic terms,  student success rate, who knows how the higher ed game can change.

Which college statistics are most important to you?

Original Post Date: October 19th, 2011

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