It’s always nice to see Kansas University receiving recognition for traditional areas of academic excellence such as special education, city management and urban policy.
However, the significant declines for two KU programs in this year’s U.S. News and World Reports rankings demands attention. The KU School of Law dropped 12 spots to 79th place, and the KU masters of business administration program moved from 29th place two years ago to 46th place this year among public universities. The programs weren’t ranked last year.
Law school officials attributed their poor showing almost exclusively to a one-year drop, in 2009, in the school’s bar passage rate. The school immediately added bar preparation programs for third-year students and saw a significant increase in the bar passage rate last year. Hopefully, that will resolve the ranking issue, but law school officials may want to explore other matters that may have affected the ranking.
The MBA ranking applied only to KU’s part-time program based in Kansas City. A spokeswoman at the KU business school explained that the full-time MBA program based in Lawrence wasn’t ranked because it didn’t have enough students. Really? Even after the commitment KU business school officials supposedly made to use differential tuition funds to build enrollment and make the school more competitive?
The new U.S. News and World Reports ranking seems to lend credence to concerns expressed in the last year by a group of MBA students about how the additional student fees were being used. It also should cause top administrators at KU to rethink their dismissive response to those concerns.
Ratings certainly don’t tell the whole story of higher education excellence, but they can be a red flag to mark programs that need some special attention. When programs drop 12 places in one year, as the KU law school did, or 17 places in two years, as the MBA program did, university officials should recognize the need to review what is going on and make sure both the substance and perceptions that resulted in those rankings are corrected.