After changes in U.S. News college rankings, many public universities climbed the lists – The Washington Post

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Many public universities rose in the undergraduate rankings released Monday by U.S. News & World Report, while many private universities fell — a sign not of a change in quality but of a change in formula for a annual sorting ritual which, in recent years, has been the subject of increasing criticism.

Four of the six schools, tied for 47th on the list of top national universities, illustrate the precipitous ups and downs. For the Virginia Tech public, this marked a sudden 15-step rise from its ranking a year ago. Texas A&M University, also public, jumped 20 steps to reach 47th place. But for the private University of Rochester, this ranking represents a drop of 11 levels. Wake Forest University, also private, fell 18 steps to land at that time.

Private Lehigh University and public University of Georgia were also tied for 47th, but their rankings didn’t change much.

What led to this rush was a change in the way U.S. News rates schools. It no longer takes into account class sizes or alumni donations, for example, but it added a new factor that tracks the graduation rates of first-generation students at national universities. As always, the formula continues to rely heavily on a peer-review survey that critics say favors wealth and long-standing perceptions of prestige.

America’s information lists are a perennial object of chatter and fascination within higher education, drawing envy, scorn or shrugs, depending on school leaders’ perspective , former students and students who follow them.

U.S. News college rankings attract new complaints, new competitors

Last fall and winter, many top law and medical schools, fed up with rankings, announced they would no longer cooperate. Their revolt affected the graduate and professional program listings published by U.S. News in the spring. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona encouraged them.

“It’s time to stop praying at the false altar of U.S. News & World Report,” Cardona said in March. “It’s time to focus on what really matters: delivering value and upward mobility. »

But most large colleges and universities have not followed suit at the undergraduate level. The exception is Columbia University, which announced in June that it would not cooperate with U.S. News’ undergraduate rankings.

At the time, Columbia officials lamented the “inordinate influence” that rankings could have on prospective students. They also criticized the way rankings “distill a university’s profile into a composite of data categories” and how much “is lost in this approach.” Their statement follows deep internal reflection within New York’s Ivy League university. In 2022, Columbia admitted to misreporting key data on class sizes and faculty degrees as it climbed to second place on the national college list.

But even when schools refuse to answer questions from U.S. News, the rankings publication uses publicly available information and continues to include it in its lists.

Last year, Columbia ranked 18th on U.S. News’ national list of universities. On Monday, it ranked 12th, tied with Cornell University (which was 17th) and the University of Chicago (previously sixth).

There were few surprises at the top of the list. Princeton University placed first and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology second, with Harvard and Stanford Universities tied for third. This reflects last year’s ranking. Yale University fell slightly, dropping from third to fifth place.

But in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, the new ranking formula brought several more significant changes. Among them, the University of Maryland, a flagship of the public sector, climbed into the top 50, climbing nine steps to rank 46th. American University, previously 72nd, fell to 105th, and Howard University, previously 89th, fell to 115th. These two DC universities are private. George Mason University, Virginia’s largest public university, moved from 137th to 105th.

American University said its graduation and retention rates have remained stable, and it questioned why rankings showed such huge fluctuations. “The methodological choices and corresponding inexplicable fluctuations in the rankings indicate either that previous methodologies were flawed and in need of a radical overhaul, or that this year’s results are unreliable because they are very different from anything U.S. News had produced previously,” AU spokesperson Matt Bennett said in a statement. statement. “In either case, we cannot verify the accuracy of all data used by US News, reproduce their calculations, or confirm the legitimacy of the analysis.”

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