The University Record, September 3, 1997
By Julie Peterson
News and Information Services
The U-M is tied for 23rd in the annual fall rankings of undergraduate programs by U.S. News & World Report, released Aug. 21. The University also ranks second in the magazine's first-ever ranking of the nation's top public colleges and universities.
Last year, the U-M placed 24th in the rankings, which combine a reputational survey with a number of numerical measures such as student selectivity, faculty-student ratios and graduation rates.
In response to a growing storm of criticism from colleges and students, the magazine changed its reporting to eliminate decimal places. The previous system, critics charged, falsely indicated a level of precision that the rankings could not justify. Rounding schools' scores to the nearest digit in this year's rankings resulted in a large number of ties among schools.
For example, Harvard and Princeton tied for the top spot. Michigan wound up in a four-way tie for 23 along with Carnegie Mellon, Tufts and the University of California, Berkeley. The University of Virginia, Berkeley and Michigan were the only public universities to make the top 25.
U-M officials were less than enthused about the rankings.
"I have been involved with these rankings since 1985, and I have maintained all along that they are fundamentally flawed," said Walter Harrison, vice president for university relations. "Although U.S. News has been making a good-faith effort to improve them, these statistics don't add up to measuring the quality of universities."
The public school category, he said, is largely meant to placate those who have complained that the rankings, by their very design, discriminate against public universities. "If the point is to help you select a university, then breaking out the publics is no help at all. No one I know makes a college decision that way. They've merely played on our alumni pride."
Virginia headed the public school list, followed by a tie for second between Michigan and Berkeley. Eight Big Ten schools were ranked among the top 25.