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US News top schools: 1983 versus 2006

collegehelpcollegehelp 6315 replies275 postsRegistered User Senior Member
edited August 2006 in College Search & Selection
I think the first time US News published college rankings was in 1983. At that time, they only ranked the top dozen or so in each Carnegie classification, excluding professional and specialty schools, and they followed a very different method: a survey of all US 4-year college presidents at colleges that offer a liberal arts curriculum.

I found the article on microfilm in the library. November 28, 1983.

Some schools changed in rank by a lot. How much of the change is due to a real change in status and how much is due to different ranking method or ranking error?

college, rank in 1983, rank in 2006, change

national universities
Stanford 1 5 -4
Harvard 2 1 +1
Yale 3 3 0
Princeton 4 1 +3
UC Berkeley 5 20 -15
U Chicago 6 15 -9
U Michigan 7 25 -18
Cornell 8 13 -5
U Illinois 8 42 -34
Dartmouth 10 9 +1
MIT 10 7 +3
Caltech 12 7 +5
Carnegie-Mellon 13 22 -9
U Wisconsin Mad. 13 34 -21
honorable mention:
Brown 15 15 0
Columbia 15 9 +6
Indiana U 15 74 -15
UNC Chapel Hill 15 27 -12
Rice 15 17 -2

national liberal arts colleges
Amherst 1 2 -1
Swarthmore 2 3 -1
Williams 2 1 +1
Carleton 4 5 -1
Oberlin 5 23 -18
Wellesley 6 4 +2
Wesleyan 7 12 -5
Bryn Mawr 8 21 -13
Davidson 9 10 -1
Haverford 9 8 +1
Pomona 9 6 +3
Reed 9 47 -38
honorable mention:
Grinnell 13 15 -2
Smith 13 19 -6
St. Johns (MD) 13 69 -56
edited August 2006
146 replies
Post edited by collegehelp on
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Replies to: US News top schools: 1983 versus 2006

  • ckmets13ckmets13 2176 replies118 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    wow. what was the first year that US News listed the top 50 or so schools, and what were the rankings then?
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  • gellinogellino 3012 replies5 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    It makes you wonder what kind of methodology they were using compared to now (it seems much more thought out and scrutinized now) and how much the schools actually changed. No JHU, Penn, Georgetown, Northwestern, WUSTL among the top 20 NUs and no Bowdoin, Middlebury, Colgate, W&L among the top 15 LACs. Both of these lists of schools seem to have been staples of at least the last ten years of rankings.

    I'm guessing acceptance rate wasn't weighted too highly. Either that or the accptance rate for something like Penn, Georgetown wasn't so much lower than UI or UMich like it is today and the other schools more than made up for it by whatever else was in the criteria.
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  • pirt8528pirt8528 349 replies9 posts. Member
    haha yea im not sure what kind of ranking methodology was used; indiana above penn, duke, gtown, etc; st. johns/ smith over bowdoin, colgate, W&L. yikes. everyone complains about the ranking now; it seems alot more accurate now than it was then!
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  • gellinogellino 3012 replies5 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Yeah. I didn't even notice Duke was missing. It seems a perennial 5-10 rank as long as I can remember. I can't believe it wasn't even in the top 20 and UNC was. However, those rankings come out heavily slanted towards public schools, although ironically today's possible highest, UVA, wasn't on the list either.
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  • dnduswodnduswo 1298 replies314 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    wow...what a surprise............just...wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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  • bluebayoubluebayou 26659 replies174 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    they changed the methodology to include endowments, and guess what, the blue blood colleges with 300 years of history moved up, and those darn publics were put into their place.
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  • TransferTransfer 717 replies23 postsRegistered User Member
    I'm not sure if the rankings or the responses to them from this thread amaze me more
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  • gellinogellino 3012 replies5 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    What's amazing about the responses?
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  • UntiltedUntilted 1933 replies47 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    indiana u in top 20...........damn
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  • huskem55huskem55 4230 replies54 postsUser Awaiting Email Confirmation Senior Member
    WOW. very interesting. funny how as the idea of the usnews rankings became popular and in some cases, dominating opinions, some schools shot up or down the rankings.
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  • gellinogellino 3012 replies5 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I wonder if these rankings matched common perceptions at the time or if this was just a product of inaccurate criteria for the rankings and Duke and JHU were actually considered better than UI or IU. I know growing up that I never considered Penn, Northwestern, Georgetown, WUSTL to be that great of schools and now it seems everyone is tripping over themselves trying to get into these schools with each one having < 25% acceptance rate.
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  • CardinalFocusedCardinalFocused 1995 replies101 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Wow, are you telling me the OG acronym was once HYPSB!? hah crazy.
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  • gellinogellino 3012 replies5 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I think the advent of rankings really brought MIT and CalTech into being more generally acknowledged, instead of thought of as having only a narrow bent. Acceptance rates for these two have really dropped in comparison to HYPS in the last 15 years. MIT even has undergrad business now, which is unbelievable to me.
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  • flutterbyhighflutterbyhigh 244 replies9 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Wow, I would have never guessed that UIllinois would ever be that high! I wonder what the rankings will be like in 2029? Maybe USNews will change something so that publics have a comeback. I wonder what the stts are for WUSTL, I would think they made a jump.
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  • 2331clk2331clk 1648 replies9 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    collegehelp thanks for posting this.

    I finished grad school around that time and those are the kind of reputations I remember from hs days researching colleges, though Indiana and Illinois surprised me.

    At my nj hs back then we had smart but not THAT smart kids go to Penn and Duke. They weren't necessarily top of the class. Our truly brilliant valedictorian turned down Princeton (which even then was extremely selective for non-prep school kids) for a full ride to WashU in STL...no one had ever heard of Wash U and we all thought he was crazy.

    City schools weren't popular back then. NYC, Phila, Baltimore, DC were dumpy and, in our minds, unsafe...many of us couldn't imagine going to school there. Bucolic country places were more popular: Cornell, Lehigh, Lafayette, Dartmouth, Colgate, Bryn Mawr, Oberlin, Princeton were desirable, whereas Columbia, Penn, JHU, NYU were not for undergrad (but they were desirable grad/professional school destinations), at least that's how I recall things back then at my school.

    Also the ivy league as it's own exclusive entity wasn't as strong then. The ivies were considered each individually on their own strengths (for instance you wouldn't apply to Penn and Dartmouth too, it wouldn't make sense), although HYP were in their own category.
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  • collegehelpcollegehelp 6315 replies275 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    In 1988, US News published a top-25 list for the first time. It was again based simply on a survey of 1329 college presidents who chose the ten best colleges in their same Carnegie classification. There was a 60% response rate in 1988. In 1983 the response rate was 50%.

    national universities
    (5)UC Berkeley
    (8)U Chicago
    (8)U Michigan
    (11)UNC Chapel Hill
    (16)Johns Hopkins
    (19)U Penn
    (20)U Illinois
    (22)William and Mary
    (23)U Wisconsin
    (23)Washington U St Louis
    (25)U Texas

    national liberal arts colleges
    (11)Bryn Mawr
    (17)Mount Holyoke
    (19)St John's (MD)
    (20)Colorado Coll
    (20)St Olaf
    (23)Claremont McKenna
    (25)Washington and Lee
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  • vicissitudesvicissitudes 3427 replies71 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Isn't it funny how the colleges that dropped the most are public schools?
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  • gellinogellino 3012 replies5 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Totally agree with you 2331, You mentioned all the rural schools I applied to and specifically all the urban places that I had no interest in. I am constantly amazed on these boards on the number of people that apply to Dartmouth and Penn. I think a lot of has to to with the renaissance of the American cities in the last decade or so. Columbia's applications have tripled in the last 15 years, which is why it's gone from an admit rate of mid 30%s to almost single digits. I always find it interesting that people mention a main selling point of a school is its location in NYC, Boston or DC.

    Also, agree on the ivy league comment. I applied to Dartmouth and Cornell because I liked the schools not because of what under-achieving sports conference they were in. It seems that people choose schools now because they are in the Ivy League like their montre is to be schools 1-8 of academic superiority in the country. It also seems that people are afraid to make a move without consulting ten different ranking guides first, being concerned that this school ranks #8 in their major and another #12 when basically these shouldn't be used as criteria at all and there is a 50% chance they will change their major which renders the analysis meaningless anyway.
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  • researchmavenresearchmaven 856 replies19 postsRegistered User Member
    The "top ten" school you pick today may be #30 in ten years from now. Just one of many reasons not to pick a college based on rankings, rather than fit.
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  • gellinogellino 3012 replies5 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I don't think Georgetown, Colgate, Bates or Colby, which all didn't make the lists, are really considered any better schools today among the general populace than in 1988, it's just that it took the use of a more objective approach to identify them as belonging (and in in many cases being more worthy) of being on these lists than certain other schools. Especially, in looking at some LACs though, it's amazing that Earlham, St. John's (MD), St. Olaf, Centre could possibly be listed based on any criteria or notoreity before Colgate, Colby, Bates.
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