Although I’ve written about college and university rankings in the past, rankings are not a topic of much discussion on my campus (probably because they’re low!). What we do hear a lot about, especially from the president and provost during faculty meetings, are peer institutions. Peer institutions justify the administration’s decisions on everything from tuition increases to faculty salaries. The term “peer institution,” though, is often vague. Who exactly are we comparing ourselves to? Are we aspirational in our comparisons or do we compare ourselves to supposedly lesser schools in an attempt to boost our institutional self esteem? A new networking tool from The Chronicle of Higher Education gives some insight into these questions.
The network displayed at the Chronicle demonstrates which institutions a given school chose as peers when receiving reports from the U.S. Department of Education. Although the accompanying article notes that some schools put more thought into the selection of their peers than others, this still gives some insight into how campus administrators are making their decisions.