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Moravian College Withdraws from U.S. News Peer Assessment Survey

Moravian joins colleges who object to the use of subjective measures for assessing academic quality

Bethlehem, Pa., May 9, 2007—Moravian College has joined a growing number of colleges who have withdrawn their participation in the Peer Assessment Survey used by U.S. News and World Report in its annual ranking of colleges and universities. Moravian will continue to submit the statistical information that the magazine utilizes to compare colleges and universities, but will not submit the subjective “reputation” survey this year.

“Moravian College joins with other members of the higher education community who feel the use of this highly subjective and highly manipulated instrument undermines the college selection process and does not contribute to the common good,” said Christopher M. Thomforde, president. “We agree with the criticisms that this survey provides inaccurate information and distorts perceptions of the quality of instruction found at America’s colleges and universities.”

The peer assessment survey accounts for 25% of each institution’s total assessment. Each year, college presidents, academic deans, and senior admissions officers are asked to rank other colleges according to their perceived academic quality. Moravian joins with critics who believe the survey is fraught with problems and is highly manipulated. In a letter to U.S. News officials that accompanied the blank survey forms, Thomforde urged the magazine representatives to reconsider its use of the peer assessment survey in their annual edition of America’s Best Colleges.

Moravian will continue to submit the statistical information that U.S. News utilizes to compare colleges and universities. Moravian’s Institutional Research Office has submitted all of the quantitative surveys for the current assessment period —the Main Statistical Survey, the Financial Aid Survey, and the Finance Survey. “We are quite comfortable with the recognition we gain from using the sound data derived from these instruments,” Thomforde continued.

In the 2007 edition of U.S. News and World Report’s: America’s Best Colleges, Moravian College ranked among the nation’s “national” liberal arts colleges. Moravian was recognized among the top 100 liberal arts colleges in a number of important categories including lowest acceptance rates of applicants, highest proportion of classes with under 20 students, and highest graduation rates. In addition, Moravian is one of 79 liberal arts colleges nationwide listed as an “A+ option for B students.”

With an acceptance rate of 66%, Moravian ranked 97th among liberal arts colleges for lowest acceptance rates—the ratio of students admitted to applications. Two-thirds of Moravian classes are attended by 20 students or less, ranking the college 95th in “highest proportion of classes under 20.” Moravian ranked 96th in highest graduation rate among liberal arts colleges with 71% of its students graduating. According to U.S. News, this indicator demonstrates “added value” which exemplifies the effect of the college’s programs and policies on the graduation rate of students after controlling for spending and student aptitudes.

For the ninth year, Moravian was ranked in the third tier of national liberal arts colleges. Moravian broke into the national category in 1997, and is only one of seventeen such schools in Pennsylvania. Locally, Lafayette College and Muhlenberg College also are included in the National Liberal Arts category.

In addition to Moravian’s ranking in U.S News and World Report: America’s Best Colleges, it is also included in notable publications that identify the college as a quality institution. Moravian is included in The Princeton Review – Best 361 Colleges, Peterson’s Competitive Colleges (440 Colleges for Top Students), Kaplan’s Unofficial, Unbiased Guide to the 331 Most Interesting Colleges, and Barron’s Best Buys in College Education.

Representatives of U.S. News have long maintained that the Peer Assessment Survey is a meaningful estimation of institutional quality.  According to a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Robert J. Morse, director of data research at U.S. News, indicated that about 70 percent of officials of liberal arts colleges filled out the magazine's peer-assessment survey last year. He stated that “although the survey's overall response rate was 58 percent last year, down from 68 percent in 2000, the proportion was high enough to provide a reliable measurement of administrators' opinions of other colleges.”

Moravian joins with 12 institutions who recently announced publicly that they would no longer participate in the peer assessment survey. They include Lafayette College, Dickinson College, Earlham College ,Wheelock College, Marlboro College, Trinity University, St. John’s College (Maryland), St. John’s College (New Mexico), Heritage University, Southwestern University, Bethany College, and Drew University.