By Maggie Cunningham–
The University of Louisville’s Raymond A. Kent School of Social Work has been ranked third in the nation by Graduate Programs LLC. This comes from a rankings and reviews in a survey taken by 1,500 students studying at over 130 social work colleges around the country.
Graduate Programs LLC is a website that rates universities and graduate programs solely based on student feedback. Harvey Berkey is the Chief Operating Officer and owner of the site and says, “We value that we are not dependent on universities or their programs at all. All of our research is strictly peer related.” Many other reviews such as the Princeton review have recently come under scrutiny for being falsified by giving inflated numbers or statistics.
Graduate Programs offers a drawing for a scholarship pulled from a pool of any student, graduate or undergraduate, who leaves a comment and ranking on the site. They use organic search engines such as Google and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, not just to get people to come to their site to rate and rank, but to gain adequate, and real information from other students.
New York University’s Silver School of Social Work and Case Western Reserve University’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences are the only two schools ranked higher than Kent and by a slim margin of .23 stars. Kent’s overall score of 8.67 stars ranked above 130 other programs including the Universities of Southern California, California Berkley, Boston, Michigan State, Loyola and Columbia. Rankings were submitted between September 1st of 2012 and February 25th 2013.
The University of Louisville itself receives a 7.3 out of 10 ranking. Comments left on the site by current or past students boast access to challenging online classes, a supportive and knowledgeable faculty, and a quality education. The only low ranking was on financial aid which still had a ranking of seven out of 10.
Terry Singer, the dean of Kent says, “a lot of people rank stuff they don’t know anything about,” about some surveys. This particular survey however came directly from students.
Singer was hired in 1997 to lead the Kent school and since has been praised for raising the overall profile in rankings such as these, as well as creating innovative community outreach programs.
The Kent School, along with the university’s School of Dentistry are ranked as some of the top schools in their perspective fields in the country. For this and other reasons, Singer has been recently been re-appointed by the Board of Trustees. “I am really proud to be a part of this,” Singer said.
Rankings were based on a number of criteria. Some of these included financial aid availability, academic competitiveness and availability of professors and staff. Also included were topics such as quality of network and career support. Kent has an extensive network and career support system. The BSW program offers assistantships at the Cabinet for Health and Families to develop expertise in the area.
The Kent School ranked highest in areas such as faculty availability and support, program value, competitiveness and student diversity. This comes as no surprise to a program that has been accredited by the Council of Social Work Education since 1936.
Singer is especially impressed that these rankings come during a time when university department budgets are suffering the effects of singificant cuts. what’s amazing is that 13 budget cuts take their toll, but we’ve gotten better.” He is pleased with how much the school is able to do with what little they are given. “We continue to grow and progress and I am proud of that,” Singer said.
Singer is not the only one that is proud of to be a part of Kent. Current students in the program see great potential in being a part of such a prestigious program. It comes as no surprise that the program they are enrolled in would receive such honors.
Graduates of Kent have gone on to become administrators with several national organizations such as Department of Veterans Affairs and the Kentucky Cabinet of Health and Family Services. They have extensive international cooperation and student and faculty exchange. They offer several dual degree programs partnered with programs in law, Pan African studies, gender studies and divinity studies. In addition, many of the faculty for the Kent School are designated Hartford Faculty Scholars for advanced work in gerontology and are graduates of the Kent School themselves.
This student ranked survey comes after another recent ranking was released by US News and World Report in January that listed Kent as the number one school of social work in the state of Kentucky. In addition, the school is listed in the top 16 percent of all Master’s programs in the country, and in the top 28 social work programs in the country in several other reviews.
Rankings and reviews can be good for business. For previous graduates of the program, it can give you something to look back at and be proud of as well as enhancing the resume. For future students, it isn’t just the rankings that are important, but where they can be found.
Sites like Graduateprograms.org use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to promote current rankings and get students involved in the site themselves.
Singer said, “It is about reputation and if I am seeing it, I’m sure everyone else is seeing it too. Word of mouth really spreads it.”
Undergraduate students feel supported by the staff at Kent. “The school seeks to work with students to obtain post bachelor degrees,” said Carina Edlin, a student at the University of Louisville who will soon be applying for the Kent School of Social Work. “The faculty and staff become mentors and guides for students who seek to enter its graduate program,” Edlin said.
Kent also offered many different variations of programs class types from online to two year programs and extending to an advanced 30 hour program. “The Kent School thrives on diversity and that’s why it continually succeeds,” Edlin said. It is the diversity in classes and programs that make an education at Kent tangible. Kent continually offers different studies to different students and teaches those students that this diversity is something that doesn’t just succeed inside the schools walls but in the work force as well.
Photo by Simon Isham/The Louisville Cardinal