College rankings and guidebooks have become big business. The prominent role played by rankings and guidebooks is problematic because the criteria used to evaluate institutions have little to do with the quality of education students receive. Designed as an alternative to college rankings, NSSE assesses student engagement in activities that contribute to learning and success during college. This study compared the NSSE scores for 14 AAU public research universities with their rankings by U.S. News and World Report. [adding] The quality of a student’s education is not synonymous with the resources and reputation of an institution. U.S. News rankings and NSSE benchmarks were not related to one another, with one exception that students at more selective institutions reported higher levels of engagement in activities that could be classified as educationally enriching. This study also found that white males tend to be less involved than other groups, the importance of attending school full time, and the impact of discipline on how students become engaged and how they learn.
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