University of Alabama ranking drops to No. 153 in 2020 U.S. News college rankings - what now?

Any theories as to why UA keeps dropping in the national rankings?

I’ve given up trying to figure it out. I know they changed their formula that go into their factors a few years ago and that seemed to knock us down more than anyone. I know all schools are getting better, but you can’t tell me that we aren’t improving enough to keep from falling on this list. The quality of incoming students are better now than ever and we are placing them in better jobs than ever before. Like I’ve said before, it seems like every competition UA participates in we either win it or in the top 3 over much higher ranked schools. I’m tired of these lists coming out and the disrespect we constantly get from these rankings. I’d put up our students against almost anyone in the country.

US News changed the formula in a way that disadvantages colleges like UA which recruits students with high standardized test scores and offers them merit scholarships. Politico had an article which went into detail about how things have changed, specifically:

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/09/10/us-news-college-rankings-formula-813559

I concur with what others have said here. Another important factor is the peer institution rating. In brief, I think UA suffers from its past rep as a party school less focused on research. It will take time for peer evaluations to change even after UA has made positive changes for years now. If UA can keep ramping up the research program, that will help.

It was exciting seeing USNWR place UA ever so close to the top 30 of public colleges, about a decade ago. But with UA enrolling far more top students than at that time, and given the great career opportunities opening up for UA grads, it doesn’t really matter to me any more. Of course, I want UA to excel in rankings, but the more satisfying thing is seeing so many really smart students going to UA in record numbers.

For what its worth, UA released enrollment figures for this Fall, today, and the school saw a small uptick in freshman enrollment, a more than 10 per cent uptick in in state freshman enrollment, and a big increase in avg GPA of incoming students. https://www.ua.edu/news/2019/09/ua-enrollment-highlighted-by-talented-class-in-state-freshmen-increase/

It’s down 65 places in last five years.

Which just emphasizes how rankings shouldn’t be interpreted as defining the worth of a degree the way people use them. Every student my ds was friends with at Bama has gone on to pursue the careers/grad schools/med school they wanted. With that sort of ranking drop you’d think the value of the degree would have plummeted and outcomes would be suffering.

How does UA ranks on other ranking lists like Forbes, WSJ, Niche, Princeton Review?

UA’s freshman retention and graduation rates are comparable with other public flagships or not?

I looked at the USNWR rankings for engineering programs and it aligns more with my line of thinking than the general national university rankings.
UA is in 50s along with Auburn, Clemson, and others I consider to be in the same real, as UA. Just a thought a different ranking which may be relevant beyond engineering.

To refresh - allocation of factors in the methodology they use to calculate these rankings:

Outcomes (35%) - aka 6-year graduation rate plus social mobility weight (% of freshman finishing in 6 years on Pell Grants)…one of the largest drivers of the rankings and one that while improving, UA still lags behind its peers. 72% of entering freshmen in 2012 graduated within 6 years up from 68% for 2011. Already a relatively low #, an additional 21% of the Freshmen who started in 2012 transferred out prior to graduating…meaning than nearly half of entering freshmen will not earn an undergrad degree from UA. That’s a big number and while slightly improving in recent years, it still lags behind other southeastern schools like UGA (86%) and U Florida (88%). A top flagship public university like U Michigan is nearly 92%.

Faculty Resources (20%) - Comprised of Class Size (8%), faculty salary (7%), proportion of full-time faculty with highest degree in their field 3% plus proportion of faculty who are full-time (1%). Interestingly - they only give 1% for student-faculty ratio.

Expert Opinion (20%) - While undergoing a real transformation as a university, the perception still lingers that UA is a big football school in the south in many parts of the country. It takes time to change perceptions and I’m not sure if there are many academic peers who would vote UA over any of the traditional schools that populate the top 50 schools in this ranking list year end and year out.

Financial Resources (10%) - not sure where to get this data

Student Excellence (10%) - 7.75% for standardized test scores and 2.25% for % of enrolled Freshmen who were in the Top 10% of their class in high school. UA’s aggressive merit programs for high-stat students is well documented, but even the UA scholar qualifying students are only at 3.5 & 1410. Don’t get me wrong - these are still very good students who have a high liklihood of success in college; but these scores are well below the 25% percentile of many schools ranked above them in the rankings. Additionally - just 36% of freshmen were in the top 10% of their class compared to UGA (60%) or UF (77%)

Alumni Giving (5%)

All this to say: UA is a very good school and performs better than its national university peers in some specific majors (ie - engineering). The biggest open question for many is: “Why is the six-year graduation rate relatively low at 72%?” 21% transfer out rate is a big #…just not clear on what those reasons are?

Given the large % of OOS students at UA (almost 70%) I’d be interested to know what % of the 21% transfer out rate are OOS students vs in-state.

Forbes ranks Alabama #252.

Again, I don’t think most here realize that UA was not so long ago, very close to cracking the top 30 of public colleges. The irony is that the quality of students back then was far inferior to what we see now at UA. Interestingly, Auburn has stayed at about the same rank (between 40 and 50 among public colleges) over the years, even as the criteria has changed.

I suspect the push for more in-state students is a reflection of UA admin understanding that the high percentage of OOS enrollment it has fostered makes a 6 year grad rate much harder to raise, given the greater likelihood of OOS students to transfer.

Projectmgr wrote: "To refresh - allocation of factors in the methodology they use to calculate these rankings:

Outcomes (35%) - aka 6-year graduation rate plus social mobility weight (% of freshman finishing in 6 years on Pell Grants)…one of the largest drivers of the rankings and one that while improving, UA still lags behind its peers. 72% of entering freshmen in 2012 graduated within 6 years up from 68% for 2011. Already a relatively low #, an additional 21% of the Freshmen who started in 2012 transferred out prior to graduating…meaning than nearly half of entering freshmen will not earn an undergrad degree from UA. That’s a big number and while slightly improving in recent years, it still lags behind other southeastern schools like UGA (86%) and U Florida (88%). A top flagship public university like U Michigan is nearly 92%."

I am not sure how it is possible for nearly half of entering freshman to not earn a degree at UA, if UA now has a six year grad rate of 72%. You are correct it is significantly below other state flagships, but 72% is well head of 50%.

“Faculty Resources (20%) - Comprised of Class Size (8%), faculty salary (7%), proportion of full-time faculty with highest degree in their field 3% plus proportion of faculty who are full-time (1%). Interestingly - they only give 1% for student-faculty ratio.”

I wonder if UA is trying to improve its ranking in USNWR by intentionally downsizing freshman enrollment last Fall and this Fall in order to decrease class size, and shift resources to paying more to existing faculty.

“Expert Opinion (20%) - While undergoing a real transformation as a university, the perception still lingers that UA is a big football school in the south in many parts of the country. It takes time to change perceptions and I’m not sure if there are many academic peers who would vote UA over any of the traditional schools that populate the top 50 schools in this ranking list year end and year out.”

I think you meant Peer Evaluation right? I agree with what you wrote here. But again, despite not having a high peer evaluation score, UA came very close to cracking the top 30 of public colleges only a decade ago.

“Financial Resources (10%) - not sure where to get this data”

Is this related to endowment?

“Student Excellence (10%) - 7.75% for standardized test scores and 2.25% for % of enrolled Freshmen who were in the Top 10% of their class in high school. UA’s aggressive merit programs for high-stat students is well documented, but even the UA scholar qualifying students are only at 3.5 & 1410. Don’t get me wrong - these are still very good students who have a high liklihood of success in college; but these scores are well below the 25% percentile of many schools ranked above them in the rankings. Additionally - just 36% of freshmen were in the top 10% of their class compared to UGA (60%) or UF (77%)”

This Fall’s freshman class has the highest avg GPA in UA history. Also, the percentage of students in the top 10% of high school class is now up to a record 40%. https://www.ua.edu/news/2019/09/ua-enrollment-highlighted-by-talented-class-in-state-freshmen-increase/

“Alumni Giving (5%)”

UA typically ranked number one among all colleges in alumni giving percentage according to not so distant past issues of the annual rankings I recall seeing. I am not sure what the current percentage is, but I see no reason why it is not still high.

"All this to say: UA is a very good school and performs better than its national university peers in some specific majors (ie - engineering). The biggest open question for many is: “Why is the six-year graduation rate relatively low at 72%?” 21% transfer out rate is a big #…just not clear on what those reasons are?

Given the large % of OOS students at UA (almost 70%) I’d be interested to know what % of the 21% transfer out rate are OOS students vs in-state."

The percentage of out of state students is not almost 70%, though the percentage of OOS freshman went north of 65% for several years until the last two years. The percentage of overall OOS enrollment is still high, but it is actually less than 60% last I checked. The transfer rate probably explains this.

UA is not only recruiting fewer out of state students than in the past, it is also recruiting more transfer students.

I think the real question is why Bama has dropped so far in the rankings while it has continued to improve academically. The answer to this is how the rankings are now weighted. Much more emphasis is now given to recruitment and graduation of first generation and Pell grant recipients. This is why University of California campuses such as Merced are now climbing the rankings.

This is has resulted in universities backing off from merit scholarships. As we have seen from comments on this site, merit aid is now becoming more scarce and less generous from many colleges who used to offer it.

At the end of the day it’s important to look beyond a number ranking. US News and Forbes do compile some useful information but not all of it is relevant to your student.

Thanks @Atlanta68 for the link. I am ecstatic to see in-state enrollment up and would love to see where in state we are gaining. I’m also interested to see how many graduate students are enrolled compared to last year. Graduate school brings in the research. Way to go Dr. Bell!

Two further points.

This is factually incorrect. An SAT score of 1410 would be above the 25% percentile in many well regarded universities. For example:

Stanford 1390
Duke 1390
Brown 1405
Notre Dame 1370
UCLA 1240
Emory 1350
UC Berkeley 1330
USC 1300
Georgetown 1350
UVA 1290

Note that 3.5 GPA is a minimum for the scholarship. Many/most of the scholarship recipients are likely to have a higher GPA than this.

Note also that UA Scholar is not the highest level of scholarship at Bama.

Bama has a large number of out of state students. Many high schools do not rank their students.

Actually, what is factually incorrect is relying on Prepscholar. I did not (and will not) go through the list above, but most colleges report 25th and 75th percentiles for EBRW and for math separately. You cannot simply (as Prepscholar did) add the 25th percentiles for each section to get the overall 25th percentile. The math does not work. So another example where something on the internet is not true. :slight_smile:

Additionally, while there are exceptions, for schools at the Stanford, Duke, Brown tier, one should assume that a large part of the 25th percentiles are recruited athletes or have a major hook. Again, some athletes are above the 25th and some everyday people in the 25th get accepted.

Ya, I wasn’t going to look up each and every one of those SAT scores at the 25% level, due to time limitations, but I’ve not seen Berkeley (Cal) and UCLA have a difference in scores of 90 points. The stats that I’ve seen over the past few years are that both schools align much more closely than that, maybe a difference of 10 or 20 points.

Here’s UCLA Freshman Admissions Profile, for example:

http://www.admission.ucla.edu/Prospect/Adm_fr/Frosh_Prof18.htm

Alabama needs to have someone look into what drives those ratings and address where the school is not hitting higher notes there. Some colleges are doing just that and ratcheting up there on the UNWR list.

Like it or not, that list resonates strongly among many. Important for ‘Bama to get rolling on this. Roll Tide!!

Yes, let’s swing college institutional practices by the ranking “tail.”

Guilty of using PrepScholar to save time. However, honest question follows. For the sake of brevity we’ll take Berkeley who reports 25th percentile SAT scores as *EBRW 640 and Math as 660 and UCLA who reports 25th percentile SAT scores as EBRW 630 and Math as 610.

Can you explain how the overall 25th percentile for these universities would exceed 1410?

*from common data set
Not looking to be overly pedantic, but I think the assertion

is not true.