Journalists love comparisons. Our subjects don’t exist in vacuums, and we need ways to compare measures like enrollments, endowments and research dollars.
So where do we typically turn when looking to compare GW to other universities? Market basket schools.
If New York University, Duke University and Northwestern University outrank GW in pretty much every metric that matters, why are we comparing them? Because those are three of the 14 universities that GW tells the Department of Education is part of its market basket.
Universities do this for similar reasons journalists do – to measure progress and shortcomings.
For GW, those comparison colleges are all pretty much urban and private. And, yes, many are “aspirational” schools – ones that have larger budgets, greater selectivity and more outside research funding.
The Chronicle of Higher Education studied these lists and found universities across the U.S. often list call prestigious, richer universities their peers. For instance, University of Denver, Bradley University and Nova Southeastern University all list GW as their peer.
But that’s okay. As former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg wrote in a 2007 Chronicle piece:
As Einstein instructed us, everything is relative. GW likes to compare itself to a “market basket” of other universities… While we were growing our endowment, they were growing theirs. We more than held our own, we may have even pulled a little ahead. But truth be told, we didn’t rank very high in the pecking order at the outset, and we still weren’t where we needed to be at the end.
Peer universities aren’t always the best indicators of success. But using the list adds much-needed perspective and context. That’s how we look at it.
GW’s peer schools, as submitted to the Department of Education
New York University
Southern Methodist University
University of Miami
University of Southern California
Washington University in St. Louis