The best and worst of college rankings

By Victoria Lavelle

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For the second straight year, Pennsylvania’s community colleges have come in last place on WalletHub’s 2017 “Best and Worst Community Colleges” list.

Pennsylvania’s community colleges ranked 46th out of 46 qualifying states in 2016, and 44th out of 44 eligible states in 2017.

Within the state, DCCC ranked third out of Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges, placing at No. 580 nationwide.

Luzerne County Community College ranked first, and Butler County Community College ranked second.

WalletHub rankings were based on 14 key measures, including learning cost and financing, education results, and career outcomes.

Student reactions over WalletHub’s dead last ranking of community colleges in the Keystone State were dismissive and blunt.

“Students shouldn’t give WalletHub’s ranking too much clout because it’s just one out of the many that can be found on Google search,” said computer science major Danny Lawrence.

Lawrence explained that he only looks at the college ranking systems that collect data from federal agencies.

“WalletHub’s ranking of our state’s community colleges is a false representation of our superb educational experience here at DCCC,” said Kelly McCuster, a social work associate in arts student at DCCC. “The internet is littered with college rankings that are nothing more than a bunch of high-stakes popularity contests. Organizations profit by scoring a school based solely off its reputation — deserved or not. Essentially, college rankings are a bad practice because they tend to do more damage by diminishing the character and notoriety of the vast majority of participating colleges.”

Nevertheless, because choosing a college is a sizeable investment, students and their families often turn to college rankings to assist them in making the decision, something Hope Diehl, assistant vice president for DCCC’s Enrollment Services, discourages because such rankings may not be legitimate.

“We should not give too much credence to any formal ranking system of colleges,” Diehl said. “Though college rankings may seem appealing to read, they tend to rely on questionable formulas to rank colleges.”

Diehl also pointed out that a majority of more popular college rankings rely heavily upon student opinion and campus reputation, which, she explained, is not an effective tool for measuring a school’s value.

WalletHub defended its rankings.

WalletHub media director and analyst Jill Gonzalez is a financial literacy advocate who has appeared on NBC Nightly News, Fox Business Network, and Wall Street Journal Live as listed on her LinkedIn profile.

Gonzalez responded to questions raised by The Communitarian, regarding the last place ranking of Pennsylvania community colleges, with a statement via email.

“To determine which states’ have the best and worst community-college systems in the U.S., our researchers drew upon results from our analysis of 2016’s Best & Worst Community Colleges,” Gonzalez explained. “Pennsylvania ranked last because even its highest-ranking community college, Luzerne County Community College, ranks in the middle-of-the-pack at 444th. The lowest ranking Pennsylvania institution, Lackawanna College, ranked second to last at 725th for 2018 was bogged down by cost of in-state tuition and fees, and ranked 813th for this metric at $14,110 in 2016, and $14,580 in 2017. Our system is an objective study, created as a guide to help students, parents, and faculty assess the status of higher education within their state”

According to Gonzalez, WalletHub helps students, parents, and faculty assess the status of higher education within their state. She emphasized that it’s not WalletHub’s goal to damage an institution’s image by placing colleges in last place.

Where to find other rankings and reviews

The growing industry of ranking universities, colleges, community colleges, and technical schools has skyrocketed in recent years, and most offer a wide scale of campus details nationwide.

The long-standing U.S. News and World Report and Washington Mont h ly magazine have published college rankings for the past 11 years. Money and Forbes magazines also publish guides by Princeton Review, Barron’s, the Fiske Guide to Colleges, and The College Board.

With the advancement of modern technology and the entire world accessible at the tap of a mouse or finger, the internet has also become home to a growing population of “best and worst college” websites.

In addition to college rankings, companies like CollegeStats offers a database of more than 3,000 colleges and universities to find the advanced degree opportunities tailored to each individual student. CollegeStats allows users to decide what matters most to them in the quest to find a college fit, and a separate online degree finder to narrow the search.

Another alternative to “best college ranks” are the handful of college review websites available online. Visitors can read college reviews created by students and alumni, or write their own campus review to post. Some of those sites include CollegeTimes, StudentReviews, Unigo, and RateMyProfessor.

The American Association of Colleges (AAC) estimates there are more than 6,900 accredited four-year colleges and universities in the nation with 20.5 million undergraduate students nationwide. Nearly half of all college students, 12.4 million, are enrolled at 1,167 community colleges, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. (AACC)

The estimated number of students attending community colleges nationwide outweigh the number of students in colleges and universities, yet fewer community college rankings exist.

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The flaws of college rankings systems

The Brookings Institution released a 2015 report titled, “Beyond college rankings: A value-added approach to assessing two-year and four-year schools.” The report notes that students don’t know enough about how institutions of higher learning compare along key dimensions, especially for colleges granting credentials of two years or less, which graduate two out of every five postsecondary graduates.

Moreover, popular rankings focus only on a small fraction of four-year colleges and tend to reward selective institutions over others that contribute and invest most to student success.

Organizations, websites, and magazines that rank schools all claim to have their own criteria to rate schools in a variety of categories that include four-year universities and colleges, and two-year community colleges, technology and liber arts institutes. The creation of additional sub-categories has also been trending, such as best dorms, best education, safest campus, and best sports program are a few examples.

Though most ranking systems have their own methodologies, a closer examination reveals some common traits. To start, college rankings aim to target high school graduating seniors and their parents in the pursuit of higher education.

All rankings are dependent upon college reputation provided by students or alumni, and opinions offered by surrounding school district counselors and neighboring colleges.

Another similarity is key data on campus graduation rates, and annual income of graduates influence a college’s overall ranking. Lastly, each organization explains in a small print reminder that no ranking system is perfect, with a notation marking the many limitations and caveats of the data analysis put into rankings.

How the data is compromised

Global College Search Associates (GCSA) in Chicago offers a client-based, interest-focused approach to the college search and selection process. GCSA helps navigate students through an array of career options achievable through the many majors and programs available throughout various educational institutions in the United States and abroad.

GCSA president Patricia Kranhke explained that during her previous job as an assistant director of admissions at Rutgers University, she was responsible for collecting and calculating much of the data being submitted to the federal government and the various ranking publications, such as U.S. News and World Report.

Kranhke recalled how it became evident to everyone working around her during the collection of data and analysis just how easy it was for information to be manipulated to improve its placement on the rankings.

“This is why so many colleges and universities have stopped submitting their information to the rankings publications, and why U.S. News and World Report is fumbling around in the media trying to push their agenda and change their research methodology,” she said. “The better way to obtain real, unadulterated data is from the federal government.”

How prospective students are affected

Members of the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) have expressed long withstanding concerns about college ranking publications and internet sites, and suggest that the effects of college rankings are “extensive and ongoing.”

In 2011, the NACAC released results from the National Association for College Admission Counseling Ad Hoc Committee on U.S. News & World Report Rankings Survey.

The survey found that while a majority of college admission counseling professionals hold negative opinions of the U.S. News & World Report undergraduate rankings, colleges still use rankings to market themselves, and the title “Best Colleges” is not an accurate representation of the information in the publication.

The survey also noted despite holding strong negative attitudes toward the U.S. News & World Report rankings, the majority of NACAC members still use the rankings in their admission and advising work.

Information students can trust

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) introduced the “College Scorecard” in 2015 under the Obama administration. Using data and collecting information from the student loan program and the IRS, the Scorecard is thought to offer better, more accurate results in comparison to data previously available, according to Kranhke.

Before the DOE’s scorecard, average graduate earnings post-graduation was taken from the annual Payscale College Earnings Report that required graduates to volunteer their yearly income.

The College Scorecard data was designed to increase transparency, while aiding students with choosing the right college. The data has also been used to improve college quality by reflecting how well schools are serving students.

However, the College Scorecard Data only reports earnings data for students starting as undergraduates who received federal loans or grants. Federal aid recipients make up roughly half of all college students who generally have lower family incomes than their peers, leaving wide-spread speculation as to the scorecard’s accuracy.

Campus visits are recommended

Disclaimers on student review websites caution users that the corporations make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of its content.

That is just one reason college officials like Diehl recommend visiting a college instead of simply relying on rankings.

“At DCCC, we reach out to future college hopefuls through college fairs and career nights, and recommend they schedule a guidance visit here on campus by calling the admissions office,” Diehl said.

To see DCCC information on the College Scorecard, students should visit https:// col leg es corecard . ed .gov / school/?211927-Delaware_ County_Community_College

Contact Victoria Lavelle at Communitarian@mail.dccc. edu

Letter to the editor

The KKK protests the novel, “The Slave Players”

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Recently we have come under extreme fire for being a hate group. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We follow the teachings of the Bible and only wish to keep the white race pure as God intended for His chosen people. Only those who live in ignorance call us hateful. We wish no harm to anyone if they just leave us alone.

It is loud-mouth literature that poisons society against us. And we must all stand together against it. A novel is out titled “The Slave Players,” which was clearly written just to agitate the college educated who always think they have a better answer for the woes of the world. The author – a white woman who seems to know little about white society – even states in response to a church bombing incident in the novel:

“There will come a time when blacks stop praying for salvation and start praying for bombs of their own.”

Who says that? That’s the kind of hateful talk that can start a racial uprising, and is about as un-American as you can get. Most Americans we talk to support the banning of this book. Brown or colored or white, it should make no difference. Hate is hate. Contact Google at http://www.google. com/contactus and tell them how you feel. Or go to www. theslaveplayers.com and leave a comment on their board. If enough of us complain, Google will tear the site down, just like they do to so many of ours, even though we profess only truth and peace.

Contact me and I’ll tell you about other harmful literature, and how you can help us eliminate it for all mankind. Loyal American Patriot.

RLariet@outlook.com

 

Feature Photo

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To commemorate The Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) on Nov. 2, the Latinx Student Association displayed an altar in honor of Mexican artist and poet Frida Kahlo. The event is a Hispanic tradition that honors loved ones who passed away and celebrates life. LSA Vice President Valeria Bossio Chavez (left); and LSA President Yesenia Diaz Lopez (right). Photo by Alicia Barrios

Editor responds

By Theresa Rothmiller

Oct. 2 The Communitarian received a letter to the editor from the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The purpose of the letter was to inform the DCCC community about a newly released novel, titled “The Slave Players,” which they suggest should be banned.

The novel, written by Megan Allen and released through Burn House Publishing, was published on Sept. 15, and is available for purchase at Amazon.com for $7.

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According to Burn House Publishing, the novel, “The Slave Players,” by Megan Allen, is facing harsh criticism by the Ku Klux Klan. “We’ve recieved dozens of angry emails, some border on threatening,” said a company spokesperson on their website. Photo courtesy of Burn House Publishing

It begins with 12 young black girls being murdered, and the lead politicians try to cover it up as an accident. If that isn’t motivation for mayhem, then anything less than that would be a picnic.

The novel has approximately 40 chapters, each chapter consisting of about four to six paragraphs that go into slight detail about the same injustice, discrimination, and police brutality that people of color face today. By the 20th chapter some things get out of hand. After news gets out regarding the cover up by the sheriff and governor, black southern state residents riot like never before.

General Anthony Sedgewick, commanding an army of all African-American men, has the bright idea to get vengeance by taking control of Colby County, Ala., where the murder incident occurred. He orders his soldiers to enslave, beat, and even kill Caucasians and any race other than their own. Sedgewick goes as far as gathering 200 plus white slaves to pick cotton after the harvest.

“But as the general knows there is very little to pick, and is getting to be less and less everyday,” said the general’s aide. “We’re already re-picking rows we’ve hit before. I’m not sure what the general wants.”

These Loyal White Knights claim that the literature describes what life would be like if Caucasians were enslaved and put in chains by African- Americans today.

The book’s premise may seem flawed, but not enough to justify a ban. For starters, there are hundreds of movies and television shows that reveal racism, injustice, and discrimination. Yet, there are no riots. If one book could cause mayhem, we would have been doomed decades ago.

As an African-American and a journalist, I admit I was a little disturbed by parts of the book. For instance, Sedgewick beats a female white reporter with a switch on national television, after discussing a resolution with the president. The general wanted to make an example of the reporter.

Did the book motivate or offend me to the point of my resorting to violence? Absolutely not.

The bottom line is, “The Slave Players” is harmless. It’s just fiction. The author has freedom of speech, just as the KKK does.

For what it’s worth, I enjoyed the book and encourage others to purchase it.

Contact Theresa Rothmiller at communitarian@mail.dccc. edu

Dodgeball tournament raises funds for breast cancer awareness

By Linda Pang

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The late-morning sun beamed brightly from a blue sky over the outdoor basketball court at Marple campus as Suni Blackwell, director of Wellness, Athletics and Recreation, greeted the competitors standing before him. But instead of addressing a Phantoms athletics team, he was speaking to students from Fundamentals of Journalism I and II (J1 and J2), along with senior newspaper staff from The Communitarian, and their English professor, Bonnie McMeans.

They were getting ready to play in DCCC’s first Passionately Pink Dodgeball Tournament to raise funds for breast cancer awareness.

“Thank you for getting this rocking and rolling and all of you guys for stepping up and being a part of this,” Blackwell told the crowd before explaining the rules for five minute games in a best of five series. “And the final rule is: try not to get hit!”

The Oct. 31 tournament, which had been rescheduled from the previous week due to rain, took place in windy 50 degree temperatures as two teams of five were cheered on by a handful of student spectators and staff from the Student Center.

Bonnie’s Ballers, a team of J1 students, some wearing light pink shirts, faced off against The PrEditors (a twist on “predators”), a team of J2 students and newspaper senior staff wearing black Communitarian T-shirts and hot pink bandanas. The PrEditors had a chance to team up against their faculty advisor Bonnie McMeans, who joined Bonnie’s Ballers when a team member felt ill.

“We needed a team captain and naturally, I volunteered myself,” said Andrew Henry, 19, a journalism major and J1 student. “But I had to lie down for a minute because I was slowly dying.”

The PrEditors won the first two games, but Bonnie’s Ballers got more competitive as the tournament continued, tying it up 2-2 after game four. Players groaned as gusts of wind sent soft, blue dodgeballs flying in unanticipated directions. Moments later, a last minute catch by one of Bonnie’s Ballers brought all of his teammates back in to help win the final game before time ran out.

“I kind of had a strategy and it somehow worked out in the end to win the game,” said 19-year-old communications major Christopher Bogarbus. “It was fun. It was a lot more exercise than I expected. My legs still kind of hurt because of the running.”

The Department of Wellness, Athletics & Recreation hosted the tournament in honor of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Teams paid a $20 registration fee in the Student Center to support breast cancer awareness, and the winning team players each took home a $10 gift card to the college bookstore.

Journalism major and J1 student Katie Cameron, 19, said she had a good time and enjoyed the friendly competition but, more importantly, she wanted to support the cause because it hit close to home.

“My mom has had breast cancer,” Cameron explained. “She’s a survivor of 14 years, so we always do something for the cause. She donates to Susan G. Komen and she does the walk sometimes.”

Henry said that he was interested in supporting the event because his grandmother has beaten breast cancer twice. “I really think it’s awesome that the college is doing something to bring awareness, especially during October’s breast cancer awareness month,” he added.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer for women in the United States, after skin cancer, but treatable with early detection. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, approximately one in every eight women born today in the United States will get breast cancer during their lifetime.

“A lot of people have known a close relative, a family friend, or someone they grew up with that has been affected by breast cancer,” said Sarah DeAngelo, the new Wellness Coordinator for the Department of Wellness, Athletics, and Recreation. “Everybody knows somebody.”

DCCC isn’t the only institution trying to get this message across. Every October, pink ribbons and decorative hats and shirts are worn, while fitness events are held “for the cure,” in hopes of raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research, education, support and medical services.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 11 percent of new cases are found in women 18 to 44 years old, but there is also evidence to suggest that physical activity may help reduce the risk of several cancers.

Worldwide, around 10 percent of breast and colon cancer cases are linked to a lack of activity.

“Personally, the most important thing of October Breast Cancer Awareness month is to get people aware about early prevention, early detection, seeing your doctor to get screenings and doing self-exams,” DeAngelo said.

DeAngelo, who started in August, works with Blackwell to plan a wellness program to get students, faculty, and staff of all ages involved in their own health and fitness.

“This is the first time we had [a dodgeball tournament],” Blackwell said. “Sarah and I sat together and thought what could we do that could help out with breast cancer awareness, is something fun that everyone can take part in, and brings the inner kid back out. Go figure that it worked out that we did this on Halloween!”

Orita Stewart, HR Generalist at DCCC, coordinates the events for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, including selling raffle tickets and partnering with departments for additional events.

“We do have [an awareness month] event at all of the campuses, so all of the other campuses do something a little different,” Stewart said. “Some do a bake sale and Exton had a cupcake truck.”

This year, Marple campus had their first dedication board. Stewart explained that each donor had the opportunity to place a pink ribbon dedication on the wall in honor of a survivor, someone that has passed, or someone fighting breast cancer.

At the end of the month, Stewart pulled all of the money together and sent aproximately $2500 to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Stewart added that although the college has historically donated to Komen, it might change in the future.

“We’ve had some push-back,” Stewart explained. “I guess a couple of years ago they had some discrepancies, so people thought ‘We’re not donating to that,’ so it behooves us to go out and find something that’s worth the time.”

According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s website, 80 percent of their money goes to the mission areas of education, screening, treatment, and research.

However, in 2012, the Susan G. Komen Foundation was under scrutiny by critics regarding the disproportionate amount between what programs the donations supported and the CEO’s six-figure salary, political stances that involved removing their support for breast cancer screening at Planned Parenthood, and using pink ribbon merchandise containing cancer-causing materials to promote their organization.

Charity watchdog websites, like Charity Navigator, ranked the foundation a three out of four stars. Ratings are based on how much of the cash budget is spent on actual programs and services versus fundraising and administrative overhead, as well as additional factors such as financial reports.

Four-star rated charities include Breast Cancer Research Foundation and locally-based Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) and Breastcancer.org. LBBC was rated 99.63/100 with 83.2 percent spent on programs and allocating 6.5 percent for fundraising expenses.

According to Charity Navigator, some of the low-ranked charities include the National Cancer Center (a 0-star rating with only 30.6 percent for programs versus 63.4 percent for fundraising costs) and the American Cancer Society (a two-star rating with only 59.9 percent for programs). Charity Navigator has “high concern advisory” notices for the Breast Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Survivors Foundation, and Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation, which were under investigation for concerns of illegal activity, improper conduct, or organizational mismanagement.

Nevertheless, awareness is improving and breast cancer survival rates are increasing, thanks to screening and improved treatment, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which reports that the breast cancer death rate in the United States has been declining steadily since 1990, “when it peaked at a rate of 33 deaths for every 100,000 women.”

“Regardless of the money that gets raised, people are more aware of the issue and they are being more pro-active in caring for themselves,” DeAngelo said. “The education and the awareness that comes out from all of these fun events and activities is even more valuable to the individuals that participate.”

Blackwell and DeAngelo hope to have additional dodgeball tournaments in the future with more student and staff participation. All of the players said that they wished it had been advertised more.

“There could have been more teams playing,” said John (Jack) Kearney, 19, a journalism major and a Bonnie’s Ballers team member. “It was for a good cause and it was a good time. I can’t believe we won! We lost the first two rounds, but we came back.”

Cameron said she enjoyed seeing the rivalry between J1 and J2.

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“And our teacher got out there with us,” Cameron added. “The J2 team was trying to hit her and we were trying to save her. It was really fun!”

Dean Galiffa, 19, a journalism major and J1 student, decided to let the more athletically-inclined students play while he cheered on his classmates.

“Initially, I was concerned that it would be boring,” Galiffa said with a laugh. “Then it really turned around—the fact that J1 won was actually pretty interesting! Who doesn’t like watching a bunch of adults play dodgeball?”

He also fully supports the breast cancer awareness cause.

“It doesn’t hurt to donate even a little bit of money,” Galiffa said. “Even just change that you have on you. Every little bit makes a difference.”

Contact Linda Pang at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

Potter Fest

Story and photos by Emily Steinhardt

Thousands of people wandered around Germantown Avenue on Oct. 21 as Harry Potter Festival took over Chestnut Hill. Attendees enjoyed everything from Butter Beer to brooms as they explored the 12 block festival that doubled in size since last year.

Chestnut Hill College was host to the Annual Philadelphia Brotherly Love Cup, a Quidditch tournament that local colleges could compete in.

The day was filled with costumes and characters from the books as people of all ages lived in the world of Harry Potter.

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Avada Kedavra! Voldemort causes trouble all over the festival by picking wand fights with any Muggle who dares.