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US news ranking confusion

motconga123motconga123 27 replies2 threads Junior Member
edited December 2017 in College Search & Selection
For the most accurate college, university ranking, people will always use the usnews as a reference but there's something that I don't understand. Let see some specific examples, because I live in texas so I will use TX schools as references.
Rice is ranked #14 in national university, but their undergrad engineering only ranked #20, but Texas A&M ranked 14 in engineering, UT ranked # 11. In business program, rice is unranked, A&M ranked about #30 and UT is #5, so by that logical sense, UT and A&M should be ranked high in national university but they were ranked very low, UT is #56 in and A&M is #69.
The only thing that would make sense for rice (and so many other schools similar to rice like emory, tufts) to make their nationally ranked high is because of their low acceptance rate, but that wouldn't even make sense. By that reason, ut arlington, texas tech should be better than UIUC and Virginia tech since they have lower acceptance rate, similarly, by that reason, trinity university should be better than university of Washington. But we all know that ut arlington, texas tech, trinity not even close when comparing to UIUC, Virginia tech or UW.
Why is this happening, why some university like rice, emory, tufts, boston univ, etc had such a high ranked place in national university? Why is it not UT, A&M, UIUC, Virginia tech? Thanks you!
edited December 2017
34 replies
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Replies to: US news ranking confusion

  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 13628 replies32 threads Senior Member
    Because different criteria are used for different rankings. For the USNews undergrad rankings, undergrad selectivity, inputs, money per student, etc. are important as well as faculty prowess and perception.

    For engineering, it's an opinion survey of academics, who tend to weigh research heavily (even for undergrad).

    Rice doesn't even have an undergrad business program.

    For the USNews undergrad rankings, it's a mix of criteria, not just admit rate. And TTech's admit rate isn't really lower than UIUC's anyway.
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  • motconga123motconga123 27 replies2 threads Junior Member
    @PurpleTitan T Tech has 66.1% while UIUC is 66%, they're almost the same but T Tech is nowhere near UIUC
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6522 replies1 threads Senior Member
    I think that you are noticing that the rankings are somewhat arbitrary. I think that it would be a mistake to read too much into university rankings.
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 13628 replies32 threads Senior Member
    I'll repeat again: For the USNews undergrad rankings, it's a mix of criteria, not just admit rate.

    So if UIUC is far above TTech, it stands to reason that UIUC blows away TTech in the other criteria USNews uses for undergraduate rankings.
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  • AlexandreAlexandre 24280 replies434 threads Senior Member
    I would not take the USNWR too seriously. Most of the "objective" criteria are based in highly exaggerated or completely irrelevant data. Virtually all major research universities have student to faculty ratios in the 11:1 - 16:1 range. However, private universities omit graduate students from their ratio, which drops it from over 10:1 to the single digits. In some cases, all the way down to 4:1 or 5:1. Financial data is easily, and often manipulated as well, and promotes wasteful expenditure as opposed to efficiency. Financial figures also fail to adjust for regional costs and economies of scale. Alumni donations have historically been purely limited to private universities. Only recently have public universities started soliciting alumni for donations. In short, smaller, private East and West Cost universities located in expensive centers will tend to do much better than larger, public Midwestern and Southern universities.

    I would stick to the Peer Assessment score, which is a fairly accurate gauge of institutional quality since most university provosts and presidents know what their peer institutions are doing in terms of capital investments, endowment development, faculty hires, facilities upgrades etc...

    According to the Peer Assessment score, UT-Austin is #23 (tied with Rice) and TAMU is #39, which is much more indicative of their undergraduate academic quality and reputation.
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  • frozencustardfrozencustard 136 replies0 threads Junior Member
    edited December 2017
    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%.

    If you truly believe that these factors aren't as important to you as they are to US News, then that would explain why you believe Rice and Emory are overrated. At the end of the day, you should come out with your own ratings and that should make up your list. Rice and Emory provide a good mix of pre-professional programs with outstanding liberal arts. If that isn't important to you, then both of those universities are bad fits for you and should be eliminated from your list. Good luck in YOUR process. Nobody should select schools solely based on US News list.
    edited December 2017
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  • snarlatronsnarlatron 1595 replies45 threads Senior Member
    For the most accurate college, university ranking, people will always use the usnews as a reference
    That’s the problem; the USNWR ranking methodologies measure things that have nothing to do with undergraduate quality of life in the classroom and the quality of teaching and resources. A simple Google search will explain that. Ranking colleges and universities is as problematic as ranking countries. What are you measuring? And how are you measuring it?
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  • rickle1rickle1 2597 replies21 threads Senior Member
    Lots of ranking lists out there, some more scientific than others. None of them all that meaningful on their own. However, you will notice certain schools appear prominently on virtually every list (the ones that use salary and placement data, the ones that use student surveys, the ones that use employer surveys - kind of like that one - ones that combine, etc.) I think that's fairly telling of the quality of the school as you get a sense that they're highly selective, graded well for quality of education and graduation rates, are popular with employers, and produce high incomes in early and mid career data points. When you combine all that, safe to say it's a great school.

    What that DOESN"T mean is other schools won't give you a great education / opportunity. The quality of the school certainly matters. So does it's resources. But what truly matters most is what YOU do there.
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  • mommyrocksmommyrocks 1204 replies14 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2017
    If you look at US News GLOBAL Rankings (as opposed to national rankings), you will find even more differences, and some of the smaller universities will drop lower while some larger universities are higher. The global rankings are weighted more heavily for research and global reputation. There are also the other global rankings by Times etc. to consider. Bottom line is choose a university that meets your needs and don't worry too much about all these conflicting rankings that change from year to year anyway.

    https://www.usnews.com/education/best-global-universities
    edited December 2017
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  • GreymeerGreymeer 918 replies16 threads Member
    edited December 2017
    Some of the rankings conflate "university systems" with individual universities. For example, they will use UT system, UC system, UMich system statistics as a whole to compare to individual colleges like Rice, which is pretty unfair. UT system has 8 colleges, 6 medical colleges.
    edited December 2017
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  • rjkofnovirjkofnovi 10469 replies109 threads Senior Member
    ^^^^Some of the rankings overrate Rice, so it all works out.......
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  • happy1happy1 23972 replies2404 threads Super Moderator
    For full disclosure I'm not big on rankings. But I do believe that it is absolutely critical to take a step back and look at the criteria used before giving a particular set of rankings any credibility.
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  • tk21769tk21769 10710 replies27 threads Senior Member
    Consider 3 different rankings:
    USNWR, Forbes, and Kiplinger.
    Their methodologies are not the same.
    Yet, all 3 rank these same 17 schools among the T20 national universities:
    Brown
    Caltech
    Columbia
    Cornell
    Dartmouth
    Duke
    Harvard
    JHU
    MIT
    Princeton
    Rice
    Stanford
    UChicago
    UND
    UPenn
    Vanderbilt
    Yale

    This much agreement is a pretty big coincidence if their ranking methodologies are deeply flawed.
    I think the reason for high agreement, despite different methodologies, comes down to money.
    Colleges with large endowments per student can afford to buy more of the best of just about everything.
    Better stuff attracts stronger faculty and students; this in turn tends to result in better outcomes (higher alumni salaries, more research production, more awards, etc.) So, somewhat regardless of what we measure, we're likely to come up with similar sets of "top" schools (albeit in somewhat different orders, depending on specific criteria).

    By the way, the USNWR "peer assessments" also place 14 of the above schools in the T20
    (all 8 Ivies, plus Caltech, Chicago, Duke, JHU, MIT, and Stanford). The biggest difference between the "peer" rankings and some of the others is in the peers' relatively high placement of several state universities. Even w.r.t. those few schools, the rankings aren't necessarily in very wide disagreement.

    This is not to say that the mutually-agreed T17 or T14 are the "best" for everyone, or that some school with a much lower ranking isn't a great fit for you. Even the best don't all do everything equally well.
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  • MrSamford2014MrSamford2014 404 replies4 threads Member
    To some extent, USNews rankings reflect the roots of American higher education in the liberal arts tradition. Indeed, the liberal arts college is a uniquely and characteristically American institution, one whose rationale can be difficult to grasp for students who hail from areas where "education" = "vocational preparation."

    In focusing on rankings in engineering and business, you have selected two pre-professional programs that fall outside of the purview of the liberal arts tradition. (Note that most LACs do not offer engineering majors, and elite universities like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton do not have undergrad business programs.)

    Despite its reputation as a "science" school, Rice is an institution whose values reflect the American tradition of liberal education. (Until recently, in fact, Rice had an undergrad enrollment of around 2,900, making it a kind of overgrown LAC.) It provides an all-around excellent education with a focus on quality teaching, ample resources, a diverse and stimulating student body, and lots of student-faculty interaction. These are the sorts of factors that result in a school like Rice--or Emory, WashU, etc.--boasting a high ranking in the USNews list.

    You will probably be glad to learn, however, that--for better or worse--US higher education is in the process of shedding its historic grounding in the liberal arts and moving towards a more utilitarian focus on vocational training. In short, the US is abandoning the very factors that made its colleges and universities such appealing destinations for students from more straightforwardly "pre-professional" pedagogical cultures.

    In any case, take to heart what other posters have said about the limited value of college rankings. It would be shortsighted indeed to choose #14 over #25, or #9 over #14, in the mistaken belief that the higher rated school was "better" in some universal sense applicable to all subjects and all students.
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  • rickle1rickle1 2597 replies21 threads Senior Member
    Great post @tk21769, money plays a big part and it creates this perpetual loop. Having a large endowment affords the university to attract the best faculty, have the best facilities, provide the best services and ultimately attract the best students. Those students would logically have among the best outcomes (I say among because a motivated student at any college can have a great outcome). It doesn't make lower ranked schools are bad or mean you can't do well there but it does mean these top schools will provide an amazing experience hard to match at other places.

    So IF you get accepted and IF you can afford without assuming too much debt (different for everyone), and IF they have your area of study, and IF you like the feel of the school, you should probably go to one of these. It could likely make a difference in your life (quality of teaching, alumni, placement, recruiting, etc.) But IF you can't afford or you don't like, you can do quite well elsewhere.

    But let's agree if they're ranked higher across the board, they likely are "better". Why wouldn't they be? Why would they be worse?
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  • motconga123motconga123 27 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Yeah, for the UC irvine too, and some university in UC systems, why in every criteria they're below A&M and UT, but they had such a high place in national ranking (#42), of UCI and UT/A&M, which one really better in term of academic? Thanks!
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  • AlexandreAlexandre 24280 replies434 threads Senior Member
    rickle1, I can think of several universities that are equal, if not superior, to some of those 17 universities that make the top 20 list in the three highly flawed rankings mentioned by tk21769. Many of those universities have one thing in common; they are public. Schools like Cal, Michigan, UNC and UVa to name a few, can match those 17 universities in terms of overall quality, but regardless of the methodology, certain criteria in those rankings are going to be prejudiced against larger public universities.

    If institutional wealth is the determining factor, Michigan and UVa match schools like Brown, Columbia, Cornell and Vanderbilt (especially when you factor in state funding).

    There are also several private universities that can match some of those 17 top 20 universities, including Carnegie Mellon, Emory, Georgetown and WUSTL.
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  • simba9simba9 3372 replies20 threads Senior Member
    Not that I take any university ranking all that seriously, but the people who really seem to have a problem with the US News ranking are those from big, public universities that don't do well in the US News ranking. Yet they're perfectly happy to accept undergraduate rankings that are based on graduate and professional school reputations.
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  • AlexandreAlexandre 24280 replies434 threads Senior Member
    simba9, would you care to share a few examples to support your claim? ;)
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  • snarlatronsnarlatron 1595 replies45 threads Senior Member
    I have a problem with the USNWR rankings and went to a SLAC, not a big, public U. My problem is that when students have been polled (Princeton Review) about quality of teaching, happiness of students, friendliest campus, etc., places like Wittenberg show up, not Harvard.
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