The University Record, September 5, 2000

‘U.S. News’ ranks nation’s universities

By Jane R. Elgass

The University is ranked 25th among national universities and third among publics, tied with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in U.S. News and World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” rankings, released Sept. 1. Only two other public national universities are in the top 25—the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Virginia. The U-M tied with UCLA last year at the same rank.

U.S. News’ 228 national universities are those that offer a full range of undergraduate majors and master’s and Ph.D. programs, and emphasize faculty research.

Only 12 national public universities appear in the top 50.

U.S. News bases its rankings on a number of factors, including academic reputation, retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduate rates and alumni gift contributions rate.

Both the U-M-Dearborn and U-M-Flint are included in the second tier of Midwestern universities, and Dearborn is ranked 10th overall among top Midwestern universities.

The rankings also highlight undergraduate engineering programs with Ph.D.s., undergraduate business programs and pharmacy (doctor of pharmacy) programs.

The School of Business Administration is ranked second along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The University of Pennsylvania heads that list. Individual departments also received top rankings: accounting (3), finance (3), management information systems (10), international business (4), entrepreneurship (9), general management (2), e-commerce (7), marketing (2), productions/operations (4), human resources (2), consulting (2).

The College of Engineering is fifth overall, tied with the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The top four are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1), Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley (2), and the California Institute of Technology (4). The following departments are highly ranked: aerospace/aeronautical/astronautical (2), bioengineering/biomedical (10), chemical (11), civil (7), computer (6), electrical/electronic/communications (5), industrial/manufacturing (3), materials (4), mechanical (4), nuclear (1).

The pharmacy rankings are drawn from already-reported 1997 data, the first time the magazine ranked that specialty, and place the College of Pharmacy third in a tie with the University of Kentucky, topped only by the University of California, San Franscisco, and the University of Texas, Austin.

The rankings were originally set for release Sept. 1, but some information was leaked to the media Aug. 30, adding to credibility woes for U.S. News. A growing chorus of voices has been critical of the rankings.

Nicholas Thompson, in the September issue of The Washington Monthly, reported on an independent report commissioned by U.S. News that found the methods the magazine uses lacked substance.

“While Thompson feels the rankings are helpful to prospective college students, there need to be systemic changes,” said an article in the Aug. 28 Chronicle of Higher Education. The report, prepared by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), also recommended changes, particularly in what some schools allege is “arbitrary” weighting of some factors that changes each year.

The report, the Chronicle article said, “recommended that U.S. News reconsider its methodology and study the limitations of the data it has been using,” and suggested the addition of two factors”—one that assesses students’ experience in campus life and their degree of satisfaction and another that analyzes the academic demands of the curriculum.”

“Once U.S. News settles on a methodology, NORC recommended, it should remain constant.”

Provost Nancy Cantor shares the concerns aired by others.

“I believe that students and alumni, faculty and staff, and Michigan citizens rightfully expect the University to be on a list of the nation’s finest universities, and we are delighted to be recognized,” Cantor says. “However, I caution against according more validity to magazine ranking systems than warranted.

“Although the desire to quantify the college educational experience is understandable, we don’t believe it is possible for the U.S. News measures to capture all the factors that contribute to a world-class education. Rankings methodologies do not take into account the broad array of offerings or variety of interconnections available at research universities.

“For U-M students,” Cantor notes, “those offerings include a vibrant and diverse student body, one of the largest number of fields of specialization and interdisciplinary offerings, and the opportunity to work in classes, laboratories, museums and studios with faculty who are leaders in cutting-edge research and creative production.”

The rankings are on the Web at www.usnews.com/.


Top nationals

1—Princeton University

2—Harvard University, Yale University

4—California Institute of Technology

5—Massachusetts Institute of Technology

6—Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania

8—Duke University

9—Dartmouth College

10—Columbia University, Cornell University, University of Chicago

There are no public schools in the top 10.

Top publics

Overall rankings in ()

1—University of California, Berkeley (20),

University of Virginia (20)

3—University of California, Los Angeles (25), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (25), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (25)

6—College of William and Mary (30)

7—University of California, San Diego (31)

8—Georgia Institute of Technology (35), University of Wisconsin, Madison (35)

10—University of California, Davis and Irvine (41), University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (41)