UW-L, Viterbo rank in top tier of colleges, based on disaster readiness

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Viterbo University rank in the top tier of four-year colleges in the United States for their ability to function during the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to a nonprofit monitoring organization.
The group, Educate to Career, ranks colleges’ readiness for various tasks. Its newest ranking assesses the schools’ ability to achieve their mission amid the stresses of shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It awarded Tier 1 status to public and private colleges that have systems required to deliver a full curriculum not only in the classroom but also online, as well as a minimum of three years of experience delivering online curriculum.
Several other UW System colleges in the state also landed Tier 1 rankings, including UW-Eau Claire and UW-River Falls.
The evaluation method traces to 2014 when ETC developed a system ranking colleges on the “economic value” they create.
“Schools weren’t given credit for enrolling students with high SAT/ACT scores or the height of the climbing wall,” according to the ETC website.
“Our system revolutionized college rankings because it was based on economic metrics, including colleges’ abilities to graduate students at a reasonable total cost, and to get them into the labor market with high relative earnings,” the site says.
The COVID crisis created a need to tweak the system, according to ETC.
“With our new rankings system, a ‘distance learning’ component is mandatory for a high ranking simply because there is a real possibility that at least some instruction will be done via the Internet,” the nonprofit says. “Schools that have systems and experience in distance learning, with a campus to support in-classroom teaching, have the right formula for today.
“And factoring in that the U.S. is now in the midst of a deep recession, tuition is also a primary consideration,” the organization contends.
The Tier 1 bank is based on four factors:

  • A physical campus for in-classroom instruction if health officials allow colleges to open in September.
  • Robust software and systems to support distance learning.
  • Faculty experience in teaching online.
  • Reasonable tuitions and fees on a relative basis.

Educate to Career, which bills itself as “The leader in FinTech for college and career Planning,” has three other tiers. FinTech is a combination of financial and technology.

Schools ranked in Tier 2 have the ability to deliver curriculum online and in classrooms, although the faculty has less experience with online curriculum than Tier 1 colleges. The University of Wisconsin-Madison landed in that tier.
Tier 3 includes colleges that strongly emphasize in-classroom education over online teaching, but it may not offer full curriculum online. The University of Wisconsin-Platteville is among schools on that level, which also includes Marquette University in Milwaukee.
Tier 4 includes colleges that have limited systems and experience in delivering online curriculum. No Coulee Region colleges were ranked that low.
In Minnesota, Winona State University settled into Tier 1, while Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota earned a spot in Tier 2.
In the Hawkeye State, Upper Iowa University in Fayette made Tier 1, while the University of Dubuque in Dubuque placed in Tier 3. Landing in Tier 4 were Luther College in Decorah and Loras College in Dubuque.