This week, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that aerospace giant Boeing is poised to enter the college rankings business. According to the (password-protected) Chronicle report, “The Chicago-based aerospace giant has spent the past year matching internal data from employee evaluations with information about the colleges its engineers attended. It has used that analysis to create a ranking system, which it plans to unveil in the coming month, that will show which colleges have produced the workers it considers most valuable.”
With a 160,000-person work force that includes 35,000 engineers worldwide, Boeing may make a mark where the government and others have not — raising the possibility that employers could become a major force for college accountability.
“We want to have more than just subjective information” for evaluating the colleges that Boeing visits to recruit and hire, said Richard D. Stephens, the company’s senior vice president for human resources and administration. “We want to have some concrete facts and data.”
Boeing plans to keep the rankings confidential, much to the chagrin of college administrators who hope their institutions make the top grades. “Self-promotion is especially likely because some lesser-known institutions will be revealed as having done an ‘excellent’ job of producing high-performing Boeing engineers, Mr. [Richard D.] Stephens [Boeing’s senior VP for HR and administration] said, without identifying any such colleges ahead of their expected notification.”
It will be interesting to see how this plays. For a school like ours, with a heavy emphasis on engineering, a good grade from a company like Boeing would be well worth trumpeting. Verification of our programs from a major employer of our graduates would carry a lot of weight with the parents of prospective students, especially in these tough economic times. But there’s always a down side to playing the rankings game. No matter whose doing the ranking, there’s always a chance that you won’t make the grade next year.