I don't understand why Brown doesn't score higher in these rankings. I know that they are somewhat meaningless and its splitting hairs whether a school is 10th or 15th. However, is Brown really worse than Northwestern, Hopkins and WashU?
"I don't understand why Brown doesn't score higher in these rankings."
That's your first mistake. Trying to understand anything about these rankings is inherently foolish. Don't be like the lemmings who are sitting around nervously awaiting USNWR approval/disapproval. People who matter don't care.
So the top 3 USNWR colleges/university undergrad programs are Harvard/Yale/Princeton, Williams/Amherst/Swarthmore. This hasn't really changed over the last decade or so, as these indisputably top notch institutions outrank others specifically according to USNWR's criteria. Does this really mean that a Brown education is patently inferior to a Princeton education or for that matter, Middlebury than Williams? No: your experience will be a function of you and your fit at a given college. There are thousands of colleges- any in the top 20+ will be solid.
I was actually asking about the methodology - what puts Brown at a disadvantage in the rankings. It was 4th overall for undergraduate teaching, it was top 10 for guidance counselors, and it has a very high selectivity rating. I think its the size of the endowment that is hurting it, but there are a few others with low endowments that are rated higher.
The peer assessment is the single largest factor in the rankings. In other words: the most important thing for a school's rank is where other deans and school presidents think it should be. My personal opinion is that Brown's curriculum/grading is what puts it at a disadvantage here because if other schools thought it was so great then why aren't they doing it too?
My vague impression is this: Brown is a much stronger educational experience than such rankings suggest. It suffers in this context only because it's an odd-duck institutionally: In some ways, Brown is Williams on steroids, more college than research university. But while it's far too multifaceted to be ranked with the LACs, it's also too much its own thing to be rated, apples-to-apples, with the likes of Harvard, Columbia, UChicago...
"Brown needs to strengthen its faculty and academic programs if it wants to break the top 10."
Brown doesn't need to do a single thing to break into anyone's ranking list. If Brown sees areas of improvement, then it should act. To dance to the tune of USNWR or the frivolous insecurities of HS students and their ill-informed parents? Puh leez.
If and when Brown breaks into the top ten, what will be your advice be to the school that is supplanted and pushed down to 11?
Will you again advise to them: "X needs to strengthen its faculty and academic programs if it wants to break the top 10."????
Brown serves a niche market in the elite schools group. With its Open Curriculum and its tendency to admit happily non-conformist students and other self-directed creative types, it's a wonder that Brown scores as high as it does. The USNews rating system is biased toward the more conventional approach.