"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


baylor does it again

"Baylor University is being called 'the poster child for SAT misuse' after the student newspaper revealed an unusual practice: paying admitted freshmen to retake the SAT and offering large financial rewards for those whose scores go up by certain levels."

That's from Inside Higher Ed, reporting today on the scheme unveiled by reporters at the Baylor Lariat. In an effort to increase the incoming freshman class's SAT scores, which have an impact on the university's ratings in U.S. News & World Report, Baylor administrators gave a $300 bookstore credit to freshman who retook the SAT, and gave a $1,000 scholarship to those whose scores went up by 50 points.

John Barry, Baylor's vice-president for marketing and commuications, told the Chronicle of Higher Education that this was just a scheme to hand out some extra scholarship money, but that makes no sense. Baylor already has measures in place to award scholarships. And it's pretty clear from statements like those made by Reagan Ramsower , the vice-president for finance at Baylor, that administrators wanted to use this method to improve Baylor's reputation.

They have accomplished exactly the opposite.

The SAT is a college admissions test. It is not a test for those who have already been admitted to college. As Inside Higher Ed notes, [public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing Robert] "Schaeffer added that giving out scholarships this way violates NACAC standards, among other things. NACAC’s “Statement of Principles of Good Practice” says that colleges shouldn’t 'use minimum test scores as the sole criterion for admission, advising or for the awarding of financial aid.' While the Baylor funds are theoretically given out on a class rank/SAT, the additional $450,000 is now being distributed solely on the basis of changes in SAT scores.)" Yesterday, about 95% of Baylor's faculty senate voted in favor of a motion opposing the practice.

I've been appalled and annoyed by many of the things my alma mater's leadership has done in the twelve years since I first enrolled at the university. But this is beyond the pale. It is unethical, embarassing, and disgusting. As a current student told the New York Times, "'...the people who put forth this decision completely compromised what they say Baylor is about: its Christian values, the integrity of Baylor, the integrity of Baylor 2012.'"

If you have a Baylor degree, the value of your diploma just dropped like the stock market. This stupid action means that other universities won't take Baylor's academic mission as seriously, and won't value the contributions of its faculty and graduates as highly. They will see Baylor as a place that only worries about its rankings, and that will do anything to improve them, no matter how unethical or unseemly it is.

If you're tired of being embarassed by Baylor and its single-minded focus on rankings, I encourage you to call John Barry's office via the Baylor switchboard at 254-710-1011 and Reagan Ramsower's office at 254-710-3554 and let your feelings be known.


Blogger Michael said...

Stay classy Waco. Stay classy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 11:31:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone ought to ask members of the Faculty Senate how long they knew about this dumb scheme.

At least a few months ago, I heard about this scheme from someone who is generally not "in the know." Not exactly a well-kept secret or intended to be a secret.

So, what's the point of the Faculty Senate getting all righteous and passing this motion? Instead of taking their cues from one of the worst college newspapers that I've ever read, perhaps the Senate should begin to Lead.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008 12:37:00 PM

Blogger Roger said...

The friend who sent this story had as his subject line, "At least we're not killing basketball players anymore".....a bad line about a tragic situation....but it speaks as does this action, to what it means when a "win at all costs" mentality takes over....another part of the Sloan legacy in my mind.....Baylor can regain some credibility by coming to a decision to get rid of this ridiculous goal of Tier One ranking and just say, "We're a teaching school; come get a good liberal arts education where you know the faculty and they know you and the ideas you exchange shape your life forever."....if that's not good enough, then shut the place down....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 12:39:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

For good or bad, Baylor is no longer just a "teaching school." There's no undoing the committment to being a research university.

The next President needs to create a new vision for the University, a forward-thinking vision which scraps the bad parts of 2012 and retains the good. A new vision is also needed for the purposes of unity (ain't gonna happen but you still gotta try) and moving past the Sloan era.

Since Laura brought up the value of a Baylor diploma, despite stupid schemes that get the University bad press, I'd say a Baylor graduate degree is definitely more valuable to those in the academy in 2008 than in 1998. I can't speak to the quality of the undergraduate programs at Baylor (well, other than Religion, it's still top notch!) but the graduate programs have earned a much better reputation in recent years.

On the downside, Baylor is no longer(and never will be again) a school with a commitment to distinctively Baptist Higher Education where the average faithful Texas Baptist can afford to send their kid. If I had a child who wasn't fortunate enough to get a full-ride to Baylor, he/she would be going elsewhere. Debt up to your eyeballs isn't worth it for a Baylor undergrad degree.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008 3:18:00 PM

Blogger Roger said...

BDW, I know you are probably right and as a parent who spent $60K on just two years for one of my children at BU, it was NOT worth it from a strictly financial perspective...The almost $80k that my other child cost @ Research U here in Austin was a much, much better bargain at so many levels...BUT, there are human dimensions that child #2 never, ever experienced at Research U that child #1 did even in the Wilderness years at BU....

I certainly am not proposing any kind of "baptist only" focus for BU...indeed, to be the transformative place it can be, it needs to NOT focus there....

I'm speaking only to undergrad perspectives however & I am pleased to hear you report a brighter picture for grad degress...I do agree w/ you that I don't think this is quite the mortal (self-inflicted) wound that TIA has suggested, though it IS a sham & sad at so many levels...

Knowing some of thinking of regents, I'm afraid that such blind allegiance to 2012 may mean that this event will create no lessons learned....that is my fear anyway....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008 4:05:00 PM


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