The University Record, September 11, 1995

U drops in U.S. News overall rankings; undergraduate business, engineering programs rank third nationally

By Jane R. Elgass

The U-M is ranked 24th, down from 21st a year ago, among a listing of the top 50 “national universities” in a report compiled by U.S. News & World Report.

In terms of academic reputation, one of a number of categories used to determine overall rankings, the U-M is up one slot from last year, from ninth to eighth.

This year, for the first time, U.S. News ranked graduate business and engineering programs, and the U-M fared well—third—in both.

The magazine’s annual survey of undergraduate colleges and universities appears in the issue on newsstands today.

The U-M is one of only two public universities in the top 25. The University of Virginia is ranked 19th, down from 17th last year.

The University of California, Berkeley, the only other public university in the top 25 in the 1994 rankings, dropped to 26th overall.

The U-M shares the eighth-place reputational ranking with Duke University, the University of Chicago, Cornell University and Columbia University, all private institutions.

In addition to reputation, a number of other criteria are used to determine the overall rankings, and the U-M shows progress in several of these categories: student selectivity, 39th (from 41st in 1994); faculty resources, 26th (from 29); student retention, 23rd (from 28); student/faculty ratio, 16:1 (from 22:1); and spending per student, $15,470 (from $14,847).

Lisa Baker, associate vice president for university relations, notes that the University is “pleased and proud to be included among the top 25 national universities,” but cautions against “reading too much into the annual ups and downs,” because U.S. News modifies its methods year-to-year. Since 1988, the U-M has fluctuated in rank between 18th and 24th.

She also feels that the presence of only two public universities among the top 25 is significant, and lends credence to conclusions reached through an analysis of the 1994 survey results done by the U-M’s Office of Academic Planning and Analysis and the University of California, Berkeley.

“The measures currently used,” Baker says, “favor smaller, usually private institutions. In general, the publics don’t fare well in SAT scores, student selectivity, spending per student and the student/faculty ratio.

“However, based on the 1994 analysis, the average academic reputation of the publics is better than privates across-the-board.”

Another concern of University officials, Baker notes, is the magazine’s failure to distinguish between the roles of public and private institutions.

“Clearly, U.S. News favors private institutions in its methodology. The fact that Berkeley has dropped out of the top 25 is troublesome. By most measures, Berkeley and Harvard are regarded as two of the top universities in the world. It calls the methodology into question.”

The School of Business Administration’s undergraduate program is in a four-way tie for third, with Carnegie Mellon University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Tied for first are the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Pennsylvania.

The magazine also selected 10 departments, with the U-M ranked in the top five in six of the programs: accounting, third; finance, tied for third; general management, first; international, fourth; marketing, second; and production/operations management, fourth.

Business School Dean B. Joseph White is pleased with the ranking, and notes that the school “has a very strong undergraduate business program. It’s very select; our students are outstanding. We have an excellent reputation in the corporate community.

“The results [of the survey] are consistent with our view of the quality of the program.”

The College of Engineering’s undergraduate program is in a seven-way tie for third, outranked by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University.

Other schools sharing the third-place ranking are the California Institute of Technology; Carnegie Mellon; Cornell; Georgia Institute of Technology; University of California, Berkeley; and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

As with business, six engineering programs out of 10 ranked among the top five nationally: aerospace, third; electrical, fifth; environmental, third,

industrial/manufacturing, third; mechanical, fifth; and materials/metallurgical, fifth.

“One should always be cautious about these surveys,” says Interim Dean Glenn F. Knoll. “Still, it’s gratifying to see that only two institutions—both of them private—ranked ahead of us. It shows the results of stressing quality in undergraduate education. We will continue our efforts to improve the excellence and value of an undergraduate engineering degree from the University of Michigan.”

The top 10 schools in overall rank this year are: Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Duke University, the California Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College, Brown University and Johns Hopkins University.