Susan Campbell Baldridge, Susan Shaman, and Robert Zemsky, [in a *Chronicle* essay]( [paywall], adapted from [their new book *The College Stress Test*](

> When things are bad enough, everybody knows. Programs have been closed or neglected; enrollments have declined; a hiring freeze has been imposed; pessimism permeates the campus. While all of that is true of institutions on the brink of collapse, what about those not yet in such dire straits? How can a college monitor its fitness so that it can head off serious trouble — or plan for the inevitable? Our answer is a risk score that quantifies institutional health.

Though they're coy—unwilling to tie ratings to colleges still afloat—the whole enterprise is an exercise in looping effects. The ratings *will* be applied, and as they're disseminated, they'll dampen student recruitment, lead faculty and staff to flee—bring about, in other words, the very conditions they purport to describe. That's why a number of schools [thwarted a similar effort]( spearheaded by a Boston startup, slated to be published with *Inside Higher Ed* back in November. It's a macabre, circling-the-grave mini-industry.

And this one, the [*Chronicle* piece](, is hard to read. It's marinated in the language of the market (customers, sellers, pricing) that's both antithetical to the endangered schools' missions and reflective of the miasmic spread of market thinking that is itsel partly responsible for their plight. The article is a stark, and disappointing, contrast to Eva-Maria Swidler's [remarkable *Academe* piece]( I [recommended yesterday](