University of Arizona and Its So-Called “Peer Institutions”

The Desert Lamp blog published a commentary and reflection today on the Daily Wildcat’s piece by Anna Swenson on the topic of tuition increases in relation to our University of Arizona “peer institutions.”

Swenson’s article basically focuses on President Shelton’s proposed tuition increase, which can be found discussed in this blog’s previous post. Swenson writes on tuition increases proposed and the arguments used in support of said proposals, i.e. the Arizona Board of Regent’s designated list of “peer institutions.” The ABOR puts these lists of “peers” together and the idea behind it, as Swenson discusses, is that the University of Arizona compares well to them. But, these lists are seemingly farfetched to anyone who knows the slightest thing about universities in America. At one time, the University of California Berkeley was on this “peers” list. As Swenson points out, this institution is the nations top public university as per U.S. Newsweek & World Report. I love my university, but we are in no way a “peer” to Berkeley! Anyone who says different, must know something I don’t.

I must agree with Swenson’s point she draws on, that being that these lists of “peer institutions ” are not in fact peer institutions, but rather institutions we wish to emulate or strive to be like.

THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA – ABOR PEER INSTITUTIONS (3/3/09)

University of California-Davis,University of California-Los Angeles, University of Florida, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Iowa, University of Maryland-College Park, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ohio State University-Main Campus, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus, Texas A & M University, The University of Texas at Austin, University of Washington-Seattle Campus, University of Wisconsin-Madison

UT Austin and UW Seattle are on this list, among a slew of others that I am skeptic to how we compare. Both of these institutions I just mentioned are premier public institutions with state legislatures that have historically supported education in general, with higher education included.

How can we as the last state in the union as per education attempt to compare to anyone else except maybe #49, which I believe would be my home state of Nevada.

The Desert Lamp has a great visual break down of the University of Arizona in comparison to its new and old peer institutions. I would highly recommend taking a look. The post shows graphs of SAT, ACT, Admissions, etc. The visual data is compelling to any reader to come to the conclusion of what has already been asserted in this piece, that this list of “peer” schools is only being used to further tuition increases, rather than furthering us as an institution.

The Desert Lamp – Average Acceptance Rates

And we are peers because...

I am not saying that compiling lists of peer institutions. In fact, I think it is a phenomenal idea and one that we would benefit from greatly, when used in the appropriate manners. If an appropriate list was compiled and we were to take a look at how we compare to them on virtually every level with similar state contributions, degree programs, student affairs programs, etc. it would only serve to better us. However, with that being said, calling schools that we are hardly similar to us our peers only deludes the administrators and ABOR. If they wanted to take a look at these universities and see what makes them great and possibly find similarities that we can hope to emulate or adopt, then that would be perfect!

Everyone is hurting right now. We need all the help we can get. It is absolutely understandable that we need tuition increases to offset the increased divestment of the state legislature of Arizona in higher education. The last thing we need is weak and insufficient arguments for these tuition increases.

Lastly, I would like to mention that not only is President Shelton using this logic, but the same logic and peer institution cost breakdowns are being utilized in arguments for proposed fees.

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Comments
2 Responses to “University of Arizona and Its So-Called “Peer Institutions””
  1. I doubt that the tuition increases will take us one step closer to UC-Berkeley status.

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