Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pope's misinformation for UNC alumni

The John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy can be faulted for a host of sins, but a lack of ambition is not among them. Not content to mislead and misinform state lawmakers to cut public funding for North Carolina's public university system, the Pope Center also operates a misleading web-tool to also discourage private donations from some alumni.
Did you attend a North Carolina college or university?

If so, you undoubtedly receive frequent pleas from your school for financial support. Does your school deserve your donations?

Find out using this Alumni Guide to North Carolina colleges. Select your college or university from the list below to answer a short survey to determine whether your giving priorities line up with your alma mater’s current activities and performance.
I went to the Alumni Guide for my institution, UNCG, to see what dastardly things my colleagues and I were doing. Below I post some of the Pope Center's statements, along with English translations.

Pope: UNC Greensboro has a free speech rating of "Red"

Translation: A free-speech group objects to UNCG's policy on discriminatory conduct--specifically to the statements
UNCG will not tolerate any harassment of, discrimination against, or disrespect for persons. UNCG is committed to equal opportunity in education and employment for all persons regardless of race, color, creed, religion, gender, age, national origin, disability, military veteran status, political affiliation or sexual orientation.
The same group rates 65 percent of the colleges and universities that it surveyed as also "severely restricting free speech and open debate." Only four percent of colleges and universities meet with the group's approval.

Pope: UNC Greensboro has a grade of "B" in ACTA's "What Will They Learn" assessment.

Translation: Another group has marked UNCG down for allowing students with SAT or ACT writing scores in the top decile to opt out of its first-year English 101 composition class. Students would still have to take an additional "Reasoning and Discourse" class and also complete two additional "writing-intensive" classes. The group also objects to UNCG allowing students to take courses like Western Civilization, Introduction to Greek Civilization, and Europe 1400-1789 in place of a course on either U.S. History or U.S. Government. In addition, the group objects because UNCG doesn't require students to take Economics (okay, they've got a point there).

Describing this as a "what will they learn" index is odd. At one end of the distribution (tied for worst in the state), our sister school, UNC Chapel Hill, gets a "D" from the group. UNC Chapel Hill students seem to learn a lot (just ask one of them). At the other end of the spectrum, getting "A's" are the University of Texas -- San Antonio, which graduates a whopping 27% of its students, the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, which graduates 32% of its students, and Kennesaw State University, which graduates 41% of its students. The distinction between putting an extra requirement in the undergraduate bulletin and actually learning something seems lost on the Pope Center.

Pope: UNC Greensboro received a rating of "Unbalanced: Democratic" for faculty political balance.

Translation: Pope explains
This category measures the number of professors in the economics and political science departments who are registered Democrats versus the number who are registered Republicans. Ratios of greater than 5:1 are considered "Very Unbalanced." Ratios between 5:1 and 1.5:1 are considered "Unbalanced." A ratio of 1.5:1 or less is considered “Balanced.” Data were gathered from the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
So, in one breath, Pope criticizes UNCG for not forcing students to take government and economics classes. In the next, it decries those faculty as being unsuitably democratic. It's really hard to win with these folks.

Pope: UNC Greensboro has a 6-year Graduation Rate of 52 percent. The national average for 4-year schools is 63.2 percent.

Translation: The 52% statistic listed for UNCG is the percentage of students who started their careers at UNCG in 2003 and who completed their degrees at UNCG by 2009. The 63.2% statistic is not comparable and appears to be the proportion of students who start at a four-year institution seeking a bachelor's degree and ever attain one at any institution. At UNCG, just over a fifth of students transfer. UNCG (and other colleges) don't track graduation rates for their former students. The 63.2% statistic appears to come from a completely different data series based on a government survey (the kind of government spending other folks in the Pope Empire routinely object to). The comparable statistic for students completing a bachelor's degree at the same four-year institution they started at is 55.5%; for public institutions, the comparable statistic is 53.5%.

Incorrect and misleading statistics? Just another day at the office for the folks at the Pope Center.