Assessing University Performance
About This Event
Each year, prospective college students and university officials eagerly await the publication of the latest college rankings. These rankings provide a quantifiable way to compare colleges, and--in the absence of reliable and publicly available indicators of student development and management effectiveness--are used by consumers and policymakers to make critical financial Listen to Audio

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decisions. But rankings are not a perfect measurement of university performance. As the cost of college continues to soar, the time has come to ask whether the lack of an effective means to evaluate colleges has exaggerated the academic arms race.

Do rankings help or hinder intelligent decision-making by consumers and producers of higher education services? What additional information should colleges provide to permit better rankings and more informed consumer choices? Scholars, education leaders, and rankings experts will explore the history and practical implications of university performance assessment at this conference, cosponsored by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

AEI adjunct scholar Richard Vedder will moderate.

8:45 a.m. Registration
Panel I: Assessing University Performance: The Role of Rankings

Panelists: Mel Elfin
Robert Morse, U.S. News & World Report
Luke Myers, Center for College Affordability and Productivity
Moderator: Michael Noer, Forbes


Panel II: Are College Rankings Harmful or Helpful?


James A. Boyle, College Parents of America
Patrick M. Callan, National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education
Steven R. Goodman


Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed
Panel III: New Approaches to Assessing University Performance
Panelists: Clifford Adelman, Institute for Higher Education Policy
Carol G. Schneider, Association of American Colleges and Universities
Richard Vedder, AEI and Center for College Affordability and Productivity
Moderator: Robert Glidden, Ohio University
12:30 p.m. Adjournment

Speaker biographies

Clifford Adelman is a senior associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), where he focuses on assessment, higher education access, student mobility, degree completion rates, standardized testing, transfer patterns, and the role of community colleges. Prior to joining IHEP, Mr. Adelman was a senior research analyst at the U.S. Department of Education for nearly thirty years. He contributed to key background studies of high school curriculum for the landmark A Nation at Risk report (1983), and he authored several studies that served as benchmarks in education and set agendas for policymakers. Mr. Adelman has also worked in academia as an administrator and educator, including positions at City College of New York, Roosevelt University, William Paterson College of New Jersey, and Yale University. He is the author of three commercially published books and a member of various education-focused committees.

James A. Boyle is the president of College Parents for America, a national membership organization providing advocacy on behalf of current and future college parents. He has testified before Congress and before the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education. Previously, Mr. Boyle served for three years as vice president of brand marketing and corporate communications for Sallie Mae, where he gained expertise in college financing issues. He also worked for sixteen years in the media industry, including a decade as a marketing and public relations executive for Discovery Communications. He began his career as a press secretary on Capitol Hill.

Patrick M. Callan is the president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. He has previously been executive director of the California Higher Education Policy Center, the California Postsecondary Education Commission, the Washington State Council for Postsecondary Education, and the Montana Commission on Postsecondary Education; and vice president of the Education Commission of the States. He is the author of many articles and papers on education, educational opportunity, public accountability, financing of higher education, and leadership. Mr. Callan coauthored Designing State Higher Education Systems for a New Century (Oryx Press, 2001) and coedited The Learning Connection, New Partnerships Between Schools and Colleges (Teachers College Press, 2000) and Public and Private Financing of Higher Education: Shaping Public Policy for the Future (Oryx Press, 1997). He has been an advisor to blue ribbon commissions, state education and higher education boards, governors’ offices, and legislative committees in many states.

Mel Elfin is a former executive editor and founder of U.S. News & World Report’s annual college ranking survey, “America’s Best Colleges.” He is credited with popularizing college rankings. Mr. Elfin also served as Newsweek’s Washington, D.C., bureau chief for twenty years.

Robert Glidden is the president emeritus of Ohio University and former chairman of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. He was president of Ohio University from 1994 to 2004. Since his retirement, Mr. Glidden has remained active in the business of higher education, as he continues to consult with universities at home and abroad and maintains his leadership in the field of university accreditation.

Steven R. Goodman is an educational consultant, admissions strategist, and coauthor of College Admissions Together: It Takes a Family (Capital Books, 2007). He is a former executive director of the College Admissions Institute of America, which aims to expand educational opportunities for disadvantaged students. He is frequent quoted in the media and has done extensive work with students and schools in India, South Africa, Mexico, and Romania. Mr. Goodman has designed admissions strategies for more than 1,700 applicants to colleges, graduate programs, and professional schools.

Doug Lederman is a cofounder of Inside Higher Ed. He is among the leading journalists on higher education in the country, speaking widely on the topic, and his work has appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, the Nieman Foundation Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Princeton Alumni Weekly. Mr. Lederman was managing editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education from 1999 to 2003. Before that, he had worked at the Chronicle since 1986 in a variety of roles, first as an athletics reporter and editor. For his work at the Chronicle, he won two National Awards for Education Reporting from the Education Writers Association.

Luke Myers is a researcher at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, for which he coauthored the report College Rankings: History, Criticism, and Reform (2009).

Robert Morse is the director of data research for U.S. News & World Report, where he has worked since 1976. He develops methodologies and surveys for the “America’s Best Colleges” and “America’s Best Graduate Schools” annual rankings. He also writes Morse Code, a blog that provides deeper insights into the methodologies and is a forum for commentary and analysis of college, graduate school, and other rankings.

Michael Noer is the executive news editor of He was the founding managing editor of Forbes online and coedited Forbes’ inaugural rankings of American colleges in 2008. Mr. Noer is the former business editor of Wired magazine.

Carol G. Schneider is the president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), a national organization devoted to advancing and strengthening undergraduate liberal education. She has led several major initiatives at AAC&U, including Liberal Education and America’s Promise, a ten-year public advocacy and campus action initiative designed to engage students and the public with what really matters in a college education for the twenty-first century. Under her leadership, AAC&U has also expanded its work on diversity, launched several new projects on civic engagement and the disciplines, and deepened its capacity to support campuses working on educational change. Ms. Schneider has written and spoken widely on different forms of assessment that deepen and document student achievement. She is a coauthor of Liberal Education Outcomes (2005), an AAC&U report that provides an overview of national data on the importance of liberal education outcomes and how well college students are achieving these outcomes.

Richard Vedder is a distinguished professor of economics at Ohio University, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, and an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of eight books and more than two hundred scholarly papers in economic history and public policy, including Going Broke By Degree: Why College Costs Too Much (AEI Press, 2004). He served on the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education. Mr. Vedder’s popular works have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, and numerous other outlets. He appears widely on television, having been featured on ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson, the Fox News Channel, CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Mr. Vedder is working on a forthcoming book on universities and human welfare.


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