Least Happy and Low Marks? A Perplexing Contradiction

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We were more than a little perplexed to find IUP on two "bonus lists" in this year's Princeton Review Best Colleges guidebooks: "Professors Get Low Marks" and "Least Happy Students."

When we asked how the surveys were done, the guidebook editors would not tell us much. They did tell us that they conducted the survey for these bonus lists during the 2008-2009 academic year and that they would resurvey IUP students this year.

We know that students can be, and will be, brutally honest. But in this case, the truth from student surveys is better than any well-crafted press release.

Here's what our students said about IUP in the Best Colleges 2012 listing:

"An affordable school that has something to offer everyone," with "excellent academic programs" that are "academically challenging but not impossible if you make an honest effort."
Students recognize "music, nursing, and education" as IUP's "greatest strengths," along with the "fantastic fine arts program," the College of Business, the Robert E. Cook Honors College, and "solid programs in theater, mathematics, chemistry, criminology, and English."
They said IUP is "about learning to be the best at your career in the future" and offer that IUP's "academic programs are exceptional."

One of the things of which we are most proud is the opinion our students have of our faculty. Here's what they said to guidebook editors:

Students here enjoy "awesome professors" who are "concerned with [students'] welfare and academic growth," and the students find their teachers "ridiculously easy to get into contact with--no need to make an appointment."

Students also have positive things to say about extracurricular life at IUP:

The school also boasts a "good selection of clubs" that provide a quick way "to meet people."
"No matter what your interest is, it wouldn't be too hard to find someone that you can share this interest with," students write.

I'm not a data person, nor an expert in survey methodology, but I do know that every day, I learn about students who are winning national and international awards:

And the list goes on.

I wouldn't agree that students who are working this hard, giving back to the community, and achieving these kinds of honors are the "least happy" among their peers at other colleges and universities.

Again, I'm not an expert on surveys, but I know that these accomplishments don't happen without an excellent faculty--with members who are routinely recognized for outstanding teaching and research, who win Fulbright Scholarships on an almost annual basis (61 to date), who involve students in cutting-edge research, and who mentor students on their way to great internships and careers. Students like Chad Hurley, a 1999 graduate who went on to co-found YouTube and then donated $1 million to the university in honor of his former track coach, music professor Edwin Fry.

The accomplishments of our students and faculty would fill pages. (Check out a sampling in the archives of this blog.)

IUP has been selected by the Princeton Review for inclusion in its Best Colleges guidebook for the last eleven years, not to mention receiving recognition as "Best in the Mid-Atlantic" and on another bonus list: "Outstanding Professors." The Eberly College of Business and Information Technology has been listed for the last seven years in the Princeton Review's "Best Business Schools."

Add to that list the many honors from Forbes magazine, U.S. News and World Report, the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, and Washington Monthly magazine, to name a few. 

The listings, literally, fill several pages and cover several decades.

There has been discussion about IUP's inclusion on these two bonus lists by the IUP community, especially on Facebook. The student and alumni postings have vigorously defended IUP, offering that life at IUP is very happy, and its faculty is excellent.

This same discussion, I would imagine, is going on at Rutgers, the University of Oregon, the University of Connecticut, and Iowa State University (who join us on these listings).

One of the student comments in the Princeton Review is that "college is all about what you make it." I think our faculty and students make IUP a pretty happy, A+ place.

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This page contains a single entry by Michelle Fryling published on December 1, 2011 5:15 AM.

Honoring the Honor Society was the previous entry in this blog.

Art in Public is the next entry in this blog.

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