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US news ranking confusion

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Replies to: US news ranking confusion

  • TiggerDadTiggerDad 2111 replies74 threads Senior Member
    No ranking system is perfect because it's impossible to rank something that's qualitative as undergrad education and experience. However, that doesn't mean that all ranking system is flawed, biased, and totally useless. They're there to serve as references and guides. Study their methodologies to see how the rankings were drawn up. It's up to each individual to look at them carefully and come to your own conclusions. You'd be naive if you were to accept them as unquestionable canons, and you'd be disingenuous if you were to trash them wholesale.
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  • AlexandreAlexandre 24280 replies434 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2017
    TiggerDad, the problem isn't just the methodologies, although those tend to be flawed too. But in many instances, the problem lies in data accuracy and consistency. It is pointless to look at a ranking where the data presented by one group of universities is completely different from the data presented by another group of universities.
    edited December 2017
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  • CU123CU123 3713 replies77 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2017
    @Alexandre Can you be more specific? I would like to know about these completely different data sets and how they are presented, also would like to know about the specific schools which have inaccurate data and lack consistency. Facts only please, not rumor and innuendo.

    BTW this thread comes up every couple of months or so, there are other meaningful ways to compare universities but this one is the one people love or hate due to where their school places on it.

    Bottom line it's useful for a starting point but it's up to the applicant to decide which "things" are important to them and find a school that suits them. Personally having experience both large public and elite private.........well its night and day, and don't interpret that to mean you can't be successful at either.
    edited December 2017
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  • AlexandreAlexandre 24280 replies434 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2017
    Sure CU. Take a look at the student to faculty ratios reported by virtually every single private university. Get back to me when you have done so and we'll have a chat. ;)

    And CU, you are not the only one to have experienced both large public and elite private (I am an alumnus of Cornell and Michigan). From what I have seen, the difference is not night an day. In fact, they are pretty much identical in most ways. Resources, student quality, class size, on-campus recruiting, global reputation, prestige etc...
    edited December 2017
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  • CU123CU123 3713 replies77 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2017
    No I asked you for that, I'm not making a claim, you are..........let me know when you get it.
    edited December 2017
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  • AlexandreAlexandre 24280 replies434 threads Senior Member
    Fair enough. The guidelines for calculating student to faculty ratios are clear. Total number of full time undergraduate students + half the number of part time undergraduate students + graduate students enrolled in departments and programs that enroll undergraduate students / total number of professors in departments and programs that enroll undergraduate students. Most private universities seem to omit the graduate students enrolled in departments and programs that also enroll undergraduate students. At most major research universities like Caltech, Columbia, Harvard, Penn etc..., the number of graduate students comes close to, if not exceeds, the number of undergraduate students.

    Caltech reports a 3:1 student to faculty ratio. However, if you look closely at their CDS, the way they come to their ratio is based purely on the 979 undergraduate students and leave out all 1,261 graduate students from their ratio.

    http://finance.caltech.edu/documents/479-cds2017.pdf (Section I, Instructional Faculty)

    The guideline is clearly laid out. The ratio must include graduate students enrolled in departments and programs that also enroll undergraduate students. Virtually all of Caltech's 1,261 graduate students are enrolled in departments and programs that enroll undergraduate students. As such, Caltech's student to faculty ratio should be over 6:1.

    Cornell University, my own alma matter, reports a 9:1 student to faculty ratio, but again, like Caltech, they fail to include a single graduate student. Their calculation is based on 14,393 students, which happens to be the number of full time undergraduate students plus half the number of part time undergraduate students. But not a single graduate student from its more than 5,000 graduate students enrolled in departments and graduate programs that enroll undergraduate students. Their ratio, should they include graduate students in departments and programs that enroll undergraduate students, would be closer to 12:1.

    http://dpb.cornell.edu/documents/1000569.pdf

    The University of Pennsylvania reports a 6:1 ratio. Again, Penn includes just 9,810 students, which again, is equal to the number of full time undergraduate students plus half the number of part time undergraduate students, but not a single graduate student from its more than 7,000 graduate students enrolled in departments and programs that enroll undergraduate students. Their ratio, should they include graduate students enrolled in departments and programs that enroll undergraduate students, would be over 10:1.

    Michigan, on the other hand, reports a ratio of 15:1. Unlike Caltech, Cornell and Penn, Michigan includes 38,076 students. That includes all 27,950 full time undergraduate students, half of the 1,014 part time students, and 9,619 graduate students enrolled in departments and programs that also enroll undergraduate students.

    There is a clear separation between private and public universities when it comes to reporting student to faculty ratios, although the instructions are very clear; graduate students enrolled in departments and programs that enroll undergraduate students must be included.

    I remember a time back in the mid 1990s when private universities decided to get creative, and started gaming the rankings. Their student to faculty ratios dropped from 10+:1 to under 8:1 overnight.
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  • rickle1rickle1 2598 replies21 threads Senior Member
    I agree that UVA, UNC CH, William & Mary, UCB, UMich are among the best schools in the country. I never said they weren't. They appear prominently in many ranking systems. What I said was certain schools (including those mentioned) tend to appear on many "top lists" using a variety of ranking categories. Although I don't think you could / should use the rankings to say School A is the best, you should consider a school to be top notch in many ways if it is highly ranked with virtually all of the major lists (as opposed to one that shows up on one in one or two yrs.

    As an example, when I was a kid, 100 yrs ago, UVA was considered among the best public universities. Today, virtually every ranking system of public schools still considers it among the best (top 5). Every Single Year. There's a reason for that. It happens to be one of the best public universities. Does that mean you won't get a good education at VCU? No. But if you're interested in the more esteemed professors, more highly accomplished students - bigger endowment, better on campus job recruiting in many areas, etc you would go to UVA. Most people would consider it a better school.

    USNWR ranks in many categories. LACs, Publics, National Universities, etc. Many publics, including top publics, really shine in graduate programs (Think Darden, UVA Law School, etc). Also think about admissions. Although OOS at a UVA or UNC is very selective, in state is not nearly as difficult as any of the schools mentioned on the posters list, not even close. OOS is still nowhere as difficult as it is to gain admission to HYPSM or most of the other schools mentioned. Part of the ranking system is based on admissions selectivity.
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  • CU123CU123 3713 replies77 threads Senior Member
    So you have a factor that is 5% of 20% of the total rank according to USNWR, and are also claiming that schools report these numbers based on their own interpretation (including grads or not) AND USNWR uses these numbers without any fact checking. Wow! ..........but then they suspended GW in 2012 from the rankings for cheating on there data (inflating accepted students class ranking). Not only that but it would take 30 seconds to calculate the student to faculty ratio, not a lot of effort here to fact check.
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  • AlexandreAlexandre 24280 replies434 threads Senior Member
    CU123, GW, CMU and Emory individually have all knowingly published faulty information, but I am now referring to isolated cases of fraudulent activity. I am more concerned with widespread abuse in data reporting. You downplay the student to faculty ratio, but that is one of the most easily verified data points. If universities are purposely manipulating that data, it is certain that other data is being manipulated as well.
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  • tk21769tk21769 10710 replies27 threads Senior Member
    edited January 2018
    Schools like Cal, Michigan, UNC and UVa to name a few, can match those 17 universities in terms of overall quality, ...

    USNWR, Forbes, Kiplinger, etc., do tend to rank those 4 universities quite highly (typically in the 20s).
    If you're a top student living in CA, it would make sense to add ~10 positions to Berkeley's or UCLA's rank. If you're a top student living in Michigan, it would make sense to do about the same for Michigan-AA's position. But if you're a top student in any other state who needs financial aid, you probably shouldn't even be looking at those schools so their rankings are irrelevant.

    The other day I ran some net price calculations for a NY state resident with ~$100K+ annual income (~2x the national median), roughly commensurate assets, and 1 child (the highly qualified prospective college student). Here are some of the resulting estimates:
    $20,095 ... MIT
    $23,585 ... Columbia
    $23,647 ... Haverford
    $23,850 ... UPenn
    $28,711 ... Cornell
    $49,457 ... Michigan - AA (OOS)

    Even if these parents were Michigan residents, Michigan's net price estimate would be higher than Cornell's, at $29,528.

    IMO, all things considered (academics, campus experience, FA, etc.) Michigan is the best all-around state university in America for undergrads. However, this net price comparison is one example of how even the best state universities don't quite compete in the same national market space, for undergrads, as the top ~20 private universities. It would be wonderful if they did (considering the huge demand for spots at top colleges). It is whistling past the graveyard to dismiss one college assessment after another, which place the top public flagships a little behind the T ~20 private schools. Instead we should be pointing to evidence that state schools could do even better (and advocate for more public investment in these schools.)
    edited January 2018
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  • simba9simba9 3372 replies20 threads Senior Member
    edited January 2018
    simba9, would you care to share a few examples to support your claim?
    Endless complaints about the US News rankings from Michigan grads because they feel their school isn't ranked higher enough, and who then say we should look to equally irrelevant rankings that rank Michigan higher.

    People always hail rankings that rank their schools well, and diss rankings that rank their schools poorly.
    edited January 2018
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  • AlexandreAlexandre 24280 replies434 threads Senior Member
    tk, financial aid is definitely the achilles heel for most public universities. For residents, cost of attendance is competitive, but for out of state students, there is much room for improvement although schools like Michigan, UNC and UVa have improved in recent years and will continue to improve in the coming years. That being said, I do not think that financial aid should determine a university's academic rating. It is misleading to rank a university of Cal or Michigan's stature out of the top 20 nationally. It is much sounder to assign a value rating without suppressing the academic ranking based on cost of attendance.
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  • AlexandreAlexandre 24280 replies434 threads Senior Member
    simba, I personally criticize all rankings, including those that happen to assign Michigan lofty rankings, like QS and the Times, which rank Michigan 12th and 15th in the US. If the methodology, data integrity and final outcome are questionable, I disregard the ranking. In my opinion, universities should be grouped in fairly broad groups rather than ranked. I don't see how even the most finely calibrated methodologies can distinguish between universities ranked within such close proximity.
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  • warblersrulewarblersrule 10231 replies176 threads Super Moderator
    Here are the criteria and weights used to determine rankings: Graduation and Retention Rate 22.5%, Undergraduate Academic Reputation 22.5%, Faculty Resources for prior year 20%, Student Selectivity for prior year's freshmen class 12.5%, Financial Resources 10%, Alumni Giving 5%, Graduation Rate Performance 7.5%.
    Thank you for proving the logical response. Given that USNWR is quite open about their methodology, I don't know why so many are mystified by the reasons for one college ranking higher than another.

    This thread is devolving into a critique of the rankings and has run its course.
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