Revealed Preferences

<p>I stumbled upon this research paper that attempts to measure "how desirable" high achieving students throughout the U.S. find particular colleges and universities. The top 15 "most desirable" state colleges are: </p>

<ol>
<li> Virginia (overall rank: 20) (between Duke and Northwestern).</li>
<li> Berkeley (23)</li>
<li> Georgia Tech (24)</li>
<li> UNC (31)</li>
<li> UCLA (36)</li>
<li> Texas (38)</li>
<li> Michigan (42)</li>
<li> Illinois (45)</li>
<li> Maryland (47)</li>
<li> William and Mary (48)</li>
<li> Florida State (70)</li>
<li> UCSB (72)</li>
<li> Colorado (78)</li>
<li> Wisconsin (79)</li>
<li> Arizona State (80)</li>
</ol>

<p>I'm surprised UW isn't higher, even in its own region (where even there it doesn't break into the top 30). Still, it does better than most. </p>

<p><a href="http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/papers/1287.pdf%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/papers/1287.pdf&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>This "research paper" sounds more like a simple poll. </p>

<p>It is amazing what passes for "research" these days.</p>

<p>It was conducted by distinguished Harvard, Penn, and BU professors for the National Bureau of Economic Research. Not too shabby . . .</p>

<p>I'm sure the weather in Madison has a lot to do with UW's ranking. It doesn't have quite the reputation of, say, Michigan to top the "desirability" rankings despite the cold.</p>

<p>Do you have a link to that study? I'd like to review it. I have seen several suspect findings coming out of Harvard lately. Not a knock on that prestigious university. There is simply too much publishing for the sake of publishing.</p>

<p>We just make up for the lack of prestige with success in life. Another study found UW placed a higher percentage of people in Who's Who than many higher "prestige" colleges. Not to mention that study was from 2004. UW still has a better faculty and better facilities than most other schools on that list. Eventually the prestige conscious will learn that.</p>

<p>This was published in 2004... way to be relevant. A tremendously fortunate article to "stumble" upon, no?</p>

<p>The authors did a reasonably good job of constructing this poll. However, here are some of the problems with this report.</p>

<ol>
<li> This is a measure of desirability. Desire is comprised mostly of emotion. This report fails to acknowledge the reasons behind each student's desires. In other words, not enough data was collected in their questionnaire. The authors did ask a few pertinent questions and it is interesting to see the most reliable indicator for a student's desires was his/her's sibling's choice of school. Here is their data:</li>
</ol>

<p>Indicator: Is Dad's College 70.458
(29.450)
Indicator: Is Mom's College 34.432
(24.797)
Indicator: Is a Sibling's College 94.743
(25.290)
Indicator: College in Home State 25.646
(38.033)
Indicator: College in Home Region 15.191
(20.533)
Distance from Home (Hundreds of Miles) 4.276
(2.137) </p>

<p>Other important indicators that should have been reported are: number of friends already matriculated at college, amount of financial aide received from top rated college, perceived experience for students from the same demographic, and the number of years each student "desired" said college (some students become indoctrinated from an early age to prefer a particular college). </p>

<p>There are likely many more indicators that will heavily sway the results of students' desires. I am sure that you can think of a few more. The point is that the questionnaire is based on emotional decisions but assumes that the students are making a logical choice. </p>

<ol>
<li> The sample of students is terribly flawed. The so-called 'top students' were identified by each high school. It boiled down to the top 10-20% percent of students in the senior class. However, only ten students were selected from each high school. The counselors were asked to randomly select the students. Therein lies an enormous bias. Why weren't these students randomly selected by a third party? Or, better yet, a computer program? Or, even better, why weren't all of the top students included?
The sample of students were selected in a very biased method. I am surprised that he authors chose this method.<br></li>
</ol>

<p>However, I will say that the authors' intentions were honorable. I think that college rankings are based mostly on bunk. The authors are particularly focussed on the reported matriculation rates. They do a good job of criticizing this often used factor in college rankings. Of course, emotional desirability is probably not much better. </p>

<p>I would like to see a national effort to create a standardized testing system to evaluate what college students learn in four years. I think that it would be useful to see which colleges do the best job of educating their students. Simple math and language testing would not suffice. Testing would have to include critical thinking and cultural awareness as well.</p>

<p>Additionally, colleges can be ranked according to the career success that their students have post graduation. Factors such as political and family connections can be weeded out to make the rankings a little more useful. </p>

<p>In conclusion, this poll is interesting but void of useful information. The only true conclusion that can be made is that over 90% of students prefer to attend the college that their siblings attended.</p>

<p>Etherdone, I appreciate your thoughtful analysis, but I think the study showed both more -- and less -- than what you're saying. I do have one question, though: why do you think Madison didn't even crack the top 30 for its OWN region. Doesn't it surprise you that, according to this study, U-Va is more "desirable" among top students in the upper midwest region than UW?</p>

<p>novaparent,</p>

<p>The poll is severely flawed. Few conclusions (if any) can be drawn by this report. So, I wouldn't say that I am surprised to see UVA ahead of UW. Would you be surprised to find out that UVA is considered a petrie dish of backward thinking, if I produced a suspect poll? I don't think so. We are inundated with garbage polls and 'scientific' research. It is up to us to dissect studies and draw proper conclusions from them. </p>

<p>I am not particularly affected by this poll. However, I am increasingly wary of shoddy "research" that is published these days. The Ivies are losing a great deal of my respect for this very reason. The publish or perish mantra is fed by the almighty dollar. </p>

<p>I know very little about UVA and after reading this poll, I know less.</p>

<p>I think that you should dig up a better piece of research to support your assertions.</p>

<p>I'm not making any assertions whatsoever. I merely asked for your reaction. </p>

<p>My own unscientific reading of this study is that the results correlate highly with the U.S. News rankings -- only with bad weather pushing a school down and good weather pushing it up. The top six schools all are both highly ranked by U.S. News and are located in the south or west where the weather is a lot better than Madison. UW simply cannot compete on the "desirability" scale with these schools because, no matter how good its academics are, these schools all have equal or better academics and the weather is tolerable. It takes a hearty "coastie" to go to UW over any of these schools. </p>

<p>UW also cannot complete with UMich, number 7 on this list, because while the weather may not be any better the academic reputation is.</p>

<p>"Bad" weather? "Good" weather? "Better" weather? You make quite the substantial argument..</p>

<p>I find all four seasons in Wisconsin to be quite tolerable and enjoyable; all in all it sounds like a matter of personal biased preference to me.</p>

<p>I'm not making an argument. As I said, I'm offering an unscientific interpretation of the results. And I'm sorry, but ask nine out of ten students from outside the upper midwest what word comes to mind when they think of Madison and weather and it ain't going to be "good." It's just the way it is.</p>

<p>We'll take the ones we get and turn them into stars. UW's lists of successful alumni easily matches any of the other schools. You worry about inputs, we look at the outputs. More CEOs. more Nobel winners, more leaders in many fields.</p>

<p>And one fact is very clear, the UW faculty is head and shoulders better than the UVa faculty. There are roughly equal numbers of smart motivated students at both but only one group gets to work with some of the stars in their field.</p>

<p>"Desirable" colleges- doesn't matter once given info regarding the poorly run study. Yet another useless list. Good fit matters so much more than what naive HS students think. Academic rankings have some use, this is pure popularity. More than enough said on this topic.</p>

<p>Which colleges on this list don't have a solid academic reputation or better? And measure output, did you say? It's not surprising given UW's behemoth size that it's going to produce some superstars, but what about the average graduate? </p>

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<p>Is there ANYTHING about UW that isn't perfect? Even the weather?</p>

<p>
[quote]
It's not surprising given UW's behemoth size that it's going to produce some superstars, but what about the average graduate

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Who exactly are you trying to dissuade from attending UW? It seems to me that if--as you say--UW is not desirable because it's not a TOP school (compared to UMich) then its the top students that need to worry about attending here.</p>

<p>But now you're saying that UW can produce "superstars," but presumably they'd need to be near the top of the class. Shouldn't a top student expect to graduate near the top of the class? </p>

<p>There are many colleges that don't have the resources to provide the academic/extracurricular experience that a top student needs. According to your post above, UW can provide the experience needed. I agree. </p>

<p>You don't need to be brilliant to go here. But brilliance can thrive here--I've seen it. Fortunately for the strong undergrad, UW's graduate programs are typically STRONGER than their undergrad, so the sky is the limit for top students expecting to take graduate level course work.</p>

<p>You should only worry about the average undergrad's success if you're average. And if you're average, you should be happy to go to UW.</p>

<p>Look, justtotalk, I'm not saying that UW isn't an excellent school. It certainly is. I'm just challenging barron's measures of output as too anecdotal to really show this. That a very good and very big school can point to some outstanding graduates who have gone on to do great things doesn't say a whole lot about the school generally. That's all.</p>