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Saint Mary’s responds to ‘Daily Beast’ ranking

KELLY KONYA | Friday, November 15, 2013



Associate Saint Mary’s Editor

Last week, news and opinion website “The Daily Beast” posted a list of 20 colleges with the worst return on investment rates, ranking Saint Mary’s as No. 2.  

While many in the College’s community were surprised by this claim, others said the piece was simply not true. 

Saint Mary’s Director of Institutional Research Daniel Flowers said the ranking is flawed on a number of fronts.

“Their methodology begins by isolating institutions that graduate 75 percent or more of its students in six years or less,” Flowers said.  “At Saint Mary’s, we are very proud of our high graduation rate. What this does in terms of ranking, however, is limit the number of institutions analyzed, as the majority of Colleges do not achieve such a high six-year graduation rate.

“That’s point No. 1 – a limited universe of institutions included in the ranking.”

Flowers said “The Daily Beast” only used two statistics to determine the return on investment, skewing the overall results.  

“The first is the average ‘net-price’ for students, or in other words, the total cost of students’ education on average after any grants and scholarships, many of which are based on students’ financial need,” he said. “At Saint Mary’s, many of our students pay much less than the reported average net-price. This represents a third of the weight in their calculation, and the other two-thirds comes from salary data compiled from PayScale.com of our graduates.”

This data is the most questionable part of their calculation, since small institutions like Saint Mary’s are not generalizable due to their sampling technique, Flowers said.

“[PayScale.com] relies on a limited number of data points from graduates who happen to take the time to visit their website and respond to their salary inquiry,” he said. “Thus, the data presented is subject to a very large margin of error and confidence interval. Most statisticians would also tell you that in order to capture data that is representative … to the population of interest, you need to randomly sample and not rely on convenience sampling.” 

In addition, Flowers said based on a recent survey of May 2012 graduates, nearly 90 percent of graduates were either employed full-time or enrolled in/completed a degree or certificate program.

Flowers said nine out of 10 graduates also reported their educational experience at Saint Mary’s prepared them very well for both graduate or professional school and their current employment. 

“In line with our mission, we are proud that our graduates pursue careers that benefit society despite, in some cases, lower levels of compensation,” Flowers said. “We do not believe the value of one’s education can be measured on the basis of salaries alone.

“In sum, we are confident our graduates’ would strongly agree that their Saint Mary’s education offered them an excellent return on investment.”

Rosie McSorley, class of 2013, said she agreed with this Flowers’ statement and said she thinks she excels in her job because of Saint Mary’s education.

“As a graduate of the business program, I would not have traded my small school education for a seat in a 500-person lecture hall,” McSorley said. “The attention and encouragement I received in class allowed me to graduate and be admitted into AT&T’s Business Sales Leadership Program, where I am able to accommodate customers because I understand the importance of patience and attention to detail.”

McSorley said she did not comprehend from where  “The Daily Beast” comprised its facts; rather, she said she has already begun recognizing her own positive return on investment. 

Sophomores Theresa Burke and Hannah Drinkall said they felt compelled to publish a rebuttal to “The Daily Beast’s” article on Hercampus.com, an online magazine targeted at the female college student demographic. 

Burke said Saint Mary’s does not teach students the notion that money equals everything, but rather, the College encourages jobs in areas like education and nursing, two of the College’s most popular degrees, that based on helping communities at large.

“[Saint Mary’s women] want to learn how to carry themselves with a mature, influential attitude and ultimately become a better woman – all while sharing that experience with women who feel the same,” Burke said. 

Drinkall said she agreed, saying it is impossible to put a price on the sisterhood that Saint Mary’s provides each student for life.

“Saint Mary’s was wrongfully placed on this list because Saint Mary’s mission is not strictly about the measured return on investment,” Drinkall said. “There is no way to measure a Saint Mary’s education in dollar signs; it is immeasurable.”

Contact Kelly Konya at kkonya01@saintmarys.edu