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

We moved to N AL in 1983 after H and I both growing up and attending college in WI, then living in Houston and College Station TX before moving to ‘engineering Mecca’. One cannot fathom how much our area and other areas of AL have changed since then - and the changes/advancements in the various Universities and colleges.

Huntsville now is growing at 100 people/week due to growth including $1.5 B Mazda Toyota joint plant (perhaps the largest single economic development project in state history) - production beginning end of 2020 or early 2021. Of course several suppliers to this facility are coming too.

Aerojet Rocketdyne opened a new rocket propulsion Advanced Manufacturing Facility in north Huntsville June 2019. Construction in Research Park is underway for Blue Origin Rocket Engine Manufacturing plant (Jeff Bezos).

Redstone Arsenal is on the list for Air Force Space Command (gov’t has delayed decision but short list, and Redstone has many features that make it a good match). The Space Command is the first step in the formation of a US Space Force, which will be under USAF and similar to the structure between the Marines and the US Navy. The command could bring as many as 1450 personnel including 390 military officers, 183 enlisted, 827 civilians and 50 contractors to Redstone.

We like to see the southern charm remain, while there has been much advancement in technology and industry - and some are noticing. As more and more people move to AL from other states (including many in technology and industry) you get less and less of the idea that all AL is rural AL. And AL is not the AL of the 1950’s.

Mercedes Benz plant not far from Tuscaloosa offers some unique opportunities for UA students, and the Germany executives love UA - they really are appreciating college football too.

How UA has gotten where it is in recent years - this is a good overview, very well said:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrV8g7kxJps

Our home in College Station was next door to PhD physicist who did research at TAMU and also worked as a professor. Our current next door neighbor in Madison AL (city surrounded by Huntsville AL) is a PhD physicist. Friends a few blocks from our home, another Physicist. Both cities had pretty good number of pretty smart people.

I am an alum of UA and a native Alabamian. I am happy that non Alabamians have moved to my home state, but I do hope people don’t think the natives are the only ones benefiting from this phenomenon. Hopefully, the non natives feel like they have grown to appreciate much of Alabama culture and its people. Too often, the tone seems to be that Alabama is backwards and needs redemption. Of course we all need redemption, but that is the point. The South is not the only part of the country that is lacking in certain ways. And it is so rich in history, and culture. We have nothing to be ashamed of relative to the rest of the nation. Different sins had different levels of intensity across the nation. Child labor in factories was not a Southern thing for example. New Jersey STILL had slaves by the last year of the war that we are now told was all about slavery.

Here’s a thought experiment.

What if next year, UA (currently 153) drops a few more slots, and UAB (currently 166) moves ups and passes UA?

Today, UA has better outcomes (higher graduation rates), but UAB does much better in Faculty resources (smaller classes, better student to faculty ratio, etc.).

It very well could happen. UA could fall to 3rd in the state (4th if we include Samford University, which is currently ranked 147).

If the slide in rankings has so far, not significantly affected UA;s ability to attract top notch students, then it will not be huge problem if it continues for another year or two. However, I think you could argue convincingly that it has the potential to prevent UA from attracting even larger numbers of top students, and top faculty, going forward, but so far, things seem stable at UA. Maybe UA knew this was coming as it began to slide and that is why it has enrolled three freshman classes smaller than the one in 2016.

The irony is that elite students have no trouble finding small class sizes within the huge UA Honors Program, so the class size issue is more of an issue with lower stats students, the ones who presumably, would be least interested in rankings.

Hey i saw that your son was an illinois resident. What school did he end up picking? I have a senior in HS that is interested in majoring in computer science. He has a 35 ACT, 3.9 GPA, and decent involvement in extracurricular events. We are applying to UIUC but I’d really like a more affordable option. Did he pick Alabama? Any advice on schools that offer good merit aid? Thanks (sorry i dont know how to send a private message)

The main reason for UA fall off in rankings is 6 year graduation rate and peer assessment. 6 year graduation rate (calculated for the period of 2009-2012 and is a rolling 6 year average graduation) is 18% of the ranking calculation. Due to the dynamic trend in student population (enrollment growth and demographic changes) as illustrated in the following link…,

http://oira.ua.edu/factbook/reports/student-enrollment/trend/students-by-level-and-geographic-origin/

I strongly suspect we will see a very positive improvement in the USNW rankings beginning in 2 years when the rolling 6 year average period is 2011 - 2014. There will be an accelerating positive slope thereafter.

Additionally, what also hurt UA in this ranking is a result of the peer assessment weighting increasing from 15% to 20%. This is because HS college counselors surveys (originally 5% of that 20%) are no longer included. I suspect that HS college counselors (due to the increase in merit scholarships and marketing awareness) have been increasingly positive on UA, and that’s versus a likely stagnant perception among National University peer administrators. I do think that stagnant perception will change positively over time.

I predict that five years out, in the 2025 USNW rankings, when UA ranking metrics include a rolling period of 2014 - 2017, UA will break back through the top 100, and be a top 40 Nat’l public university.

The key for UA is to keep investing in professors, buildings, new programs and majors; to keep the merit scholarship trajectory (which improves both retention and 6 year graduation rates) and also keep marketing the brand.

Absolutely not! Most reputable journals and education expects scoff at the USNWR rankings and how flawed their methodology is. And each and every ranking system has it’s own little quirks. Which one should Alabama try to conform to? Rankings are a good conversation topic; for choosing a college, they suck and should be almost completely ignored. There are some that actually have some worth like Fiske’s Guide and T.H.E. but even those should be no more than a starting point or a point of reference, not the Holy Grail. Alabama just needs to keep on doing what they are doing; pursue the best and brightest kids from all over while maintaining their mandate to educate the citizens of Alabama. I think they are doing a fine job.

https://chemistry.ua.edu/faculty-and-staff/

Look at the bios of that Chem department. Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Emory, Vandy, Purdue, Penn, UC Berkley, Vanderbilt. These are the schools many of them attended.

That looks like a strong faculty to me.

This is just an example

I’m an out-of-state alumni of UA. Since I started at UA, it has steadily fallen in the rankings at a incredible pace. However, Temple, a near equal competitor to UA in terms of offered value, has risen.

  1. I do believe the seemingly consistent scandals and negative press is catching up with UA. Since I began considering UA (around 2014), we've consistently dealt with issues of racism, corruption, or ineptitude that further scar an already marked school. I have to remind myself, looking back and living in the Northeast, that it's not typical for the average university to experience a national scandal related to racist comments by a sorority girl. Or, be lambasted in the media for the suicide of a former student due to an inept local police department. A Black administrator being pushed out for old tweets. that made Breitbart mad. isn't normal.

As someone entering a research program in the Northeast, I went through a gauntlet of interviewers who perceived UA as a low-tier state institution plagued by a terrible state and terrible people. I think the gap between “football/party schools” and “serious schools” is growing rapidly due to improved technologies, and the UA’s of the world will eventually be left behind. “Peer Researchers” aren’t like high school counselors, they know when a school is producing empty promises. Clinging to a few successful alumni (who often continued their education elsewhere) and an artificial increase in high scoring students won’t be enough.

  1. I would state that the research facilities and programs aren't as great as CC would like to think they are. When Carnegie changed their scoring system for Research Tiers, UA was quick to jump on the "We're a Top Tier Research Institution!" bandwagon when, truthfully, it wasn't close under the old standard. That attitude and willingness to claim small wins and bear them as major victories is why UA fails to improve where other universities have been for years. So what you can build more dorms and replace 40yo buildings? It's time for a serious scientific research facility besides the Shelby Quad.
  2. The artificial inflation of UA's enrolled students will eventually collapse. The model has been previously used and is easily recognizable by peer institutions. UA hasn't suddenly become an esteemed academic powerhouse, and pretending the Honors College is a sufficient replacement for campus-wide quality is one of the biggest farces propagated by CC. These top students UA recruits are logical thinkers who chose UA for the low opportunity cost. If a school with a better value equation offers a similar scholarship, or UA slowly shuts off the scholarship (which they are), the students will start attending the other institution.

UA has historically scored low on Forbes and only recently begun a major correction with US News. I’m a proud alumni of UA, but can’t see myself donating or working there in the future-it has to confront systemic issues before it’ll begin to make serious improvements in its reputation or long-term academic quality.

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I just read your post and I felt compelled to respond. It is long, but hopefully you will see that I love my alma mater, and want only the best for it. My response had to be divided into two posts to address all of the points you made.

" Since I started at UA, it has steadily fallen in the rankings at a incredible pace. However, Temple, a near equal competitor to UA in terms of offered value, has risen."

Ok, we have been over this in detail. Not sure if you read the posts above yours. We have identified several key factors that easily explain the decline. Mainly, there has been a change in criteria for which UA was unprepared. Should they have been prepared? Well if rankings are important, perhaps, but on another level, perhaps not because maybe the new criteria is not really a good indicator of academic power. To summarize, despite having better qualified students than ever, despite having been ranked as one of the top schools for internships, despite the rapidly increasing research output of the school, despite the amazing new facilities that can compete with any other school in the nation, UA has been dropping precipitously in the USNWR ranking. Maybe the ranking is no longer a valid measure to rank schools.

“1. I do believe the seemingly consistent scandals and negative press is catching up with UA. Since I began considering UA (around 2014), we’ve consistently dealt with issues of racism, corruption, or ineptitude that further scar an already marked school. I have to remind myself, looking back and living in the Northeast, that it’s not typical for the average university to experience a national scandal related to racist comments by a sorority girl. Or, be lambasted in the media for the suicide of a former student due to an inept local police department. A Black administrator being pushed out for old tweets. that made Breitbart mad. isn’t normal.”

Well it is clear where you stand politically, for you seem to buy into certain assumptions. First, I can think of one real sorority scandal, and that was extremely embarrassing, but it happened in 2012, eight years ago. The university aggressively responded to it and now has an integrated Greek system. There are certain factors which will prevent the system from being as integrated as you might wish, namely, the longstanding and very proud tradition of predominantly Black Greek houses at UA. The other scandals involved one girl meaning to text in celebration, “NO more ninjas!!!” at the sorority selection day, to other sorority sisters, but the soft form of the n word appeared instead. Probably because she like most young women of her age, are fans of rap culture and she has used the term in her personal life. One thing is clear. No one who means to be hateful, calls a Back person the soft version of the word. They use the hard version.

So why did she mean to text “ninja”? Ninja is a term for a girl who swoops into a sorority even though she isn’t a first choice of the sorority. Furthermore, one of her new pledge sisters was Black, so it would not have made any sense for her to celebrate having no Black pledges in her class of sisters.

The other scandal I can think of was the NJ, not Alabama sorority girl, who posted a racist message. There is no way to explain that. She was being really nasty, but again, not from Alabama!

You are making assumptions about that girl’s suicide. Enough said.
The Black administrator agreed to leave, because he had made extremely offensive anti White tweets a couple of years before. If any White administrator had left anything close to the kind of racist tweet he had, then they would have been fired and likely, had their career destroyed. Again, you reveal your politics with your selective outrage. Personally, I don’t think UA should tolerate administrators with a history of racist tweets. It didn’t just make Breitbart mad, it made me, an alum mad. And I don’t appreciate how it was used to make UA look bad.

By the way, is this Amanda? The student who posted that viral video falsely accusing White UA students of attacking Blacks and kicking in doors when Obama won? I checked with the Tuscaloosa News, and they found that NEVER happened. The most they could find was that a Black prof’s Obama poster had been defaced. You better believe that had that happened, it would have made national news.

Oh yeah, I think someone found a racist message chalked on campus. Well it could very easily have been a hate hoax. Those have been epidemic over the last 20 years, like with the “poop swastika” found at Mizzou. Very often the Black or Jewish student who finds the hate message is found to have committed the hate hoax.

Here is the rest of my response to you:

“As someone entering a research program in the Northeast, I went through a gauntlet of interviewers who perceived UA as a low-tier state institution plagued by a terrible state and terrible people. I think the gap between “football/party schools” and “serious schools” is growing rapidly due to improved technologies, and the UA’s of the world will eventually be left behind. “Peer Researchers” aren’t like high school counselors, they know when a school is producing empty promises. Clinging to a few successful alumni (who often continued their education elsewhere) and an artificial increase in high scoring students won’t be enough.”

So you were interviewed by anti Southern bigots eh? Well, I don’t know what to tell you. Again, UA’s new facilities can compete with those at any top school. I don’t know of another school that improved its facilities so dramatically in the last 20 years., thanks partially to a powerful US Senator prioritizing funding for his alma mater. And what would be the empty promises? Do tell.

“2. I would state that the research facilities and programs aren’t as great as CC would like to think they are. When Carnegie changed their scoring system for Research Tiers, UA was quick to jump on the “We’re a Top Tier Research Institution!” bandwagon when, truthfully, it wasn’t close under the old standard. That attitude and willingness to claim small wins and bear them as major victories is why UA fails to improve where other universities have been for years. So what you can build more dorms and replace 40yo buildings? It’s time for a serious scientific research facility besides the Shelby Quad.”

Besides the Shelby Quad? Are you serious? those are 4 very large new buildings, in addition to the new Water Center, and major new class rooms with the latest technologies built into them. Compare UA to Auburn, to UGA, and to other peer schools, Its facilities compare very well or surpass that of its rivals. But yes, it is not an Ag or Med school, so it is not going to be as easy for UA to reach the levels of research of some of its peers with Ag and Med schools. How would you suggest UA improve their research program? Please be specific. If you have good ideas, please please share them with the administration. You took time to post your message, so take time and make a difference.

I tell you what I would do. I would dissolve the expensive and unnecessary new Office of “Diversity, Inclusion and Equity,” and use that money to instead improve the research program. UA was already diverse relative to its peers, and has one of the nation’s highest percentages of Black faculty, not to mention, percentage of student body that is Black.

“3. The artificial inflation of UA’s enrolled students will eventually collapse. The model has been previously used and is easily recognizable by peer institutions. UA hasn’t suddenly become an esteemed academic powerhouse, and pretending the Honors College is a sufficient replacement for campus-wide quality is one of the biggest farces propagated by CC. These top students UA recruits are logical thinkers who chose UA for the low opportunity cost. If a school with a better value equation offers a similar scholarship, or UA slowly shuts off the scholarship (which they are), the students will start attending the other institution.”

What is the difference between a class with 100 vs 150 students? When it comes to small classes, UA competes well with its peers. A greater percentage of UA students is in small classes than many of its peers. UA is not slowly shutting off the scholarships for top students. They pulled back just a bit in scholarships a couple of years ago, and decided to restore the scholarship to its original requirement criteria. UA is still attracting more top students in actual numbers than almost every other SEC school.

“UA has historically scored low on Forbes and only recently begun a major correction with US News. I’m a proud alumni of UA, but can’t see myself donating or working there in the future-it has to confront systemic issues before it’ll begin to make serious improvements in its reputation or long-term academic quality.”

You sure don’t seem very proud. Take my advice. Stay away from Alabama for as long as possible. See how other places have their own set of unique problems. That is what I did. And then maybe one day, like me, you will appreciate it and realize it is a very special school, with a really gorgeous campus.

Yea. I question the intent and motive of Bammaalum2020 who just registered on the same day of the post. This is a thread to better understand the rankings drop and not to bash UA on subjective biases which are not directly included in the rankings. I live in NYC and have clearly noted the substantial uptick in reputation in NYC of BAMA grads. Part of that is a result of the OOS BAMA population of 70% with a notable portion from the Northeast. Part is the outreach of the BAMA schools such as the Culverhouse business school. There are several other positives as of the past week. For example, the Manderson Business School was just featured in Poets & Quants for the rapidly increasing success of the Stem Path to MBA program at BAMA. It’s a great read re: the success of the students who are going to incredible jobs at name-brand companies, and the program overall. In addition, BAMA just hired a new Provost who was a successful Dean at the University of Michigan. Those who have been following the strategy of the BAMA administration since 2007, they will well know that the goal has been to take BAMA to the National Stage eventually reaching the status of a Public Ivy. Now, admittedly there’s a long way to go to be a UVA, UNC, UCLA or UMich. But the hire of this new Provost is a huge statement hire. That hire will not only drive the academic growth of BAMA, but it will also help boost the USNW scoring of the reputation ranking among University Presidents. Finally, a recent article in the NY Times pointed to BAMA as one of the strong survivors of COVID because it has reshaped itself well financially versus so many of its Peers over the past decade. So, why has the ranking dropped? See my earlier Post in this thread for the main quantitative drivers of the recent ranking drop, and my rational as to why I believe the ranking will make a U Turn fairly soon. In the end, no matter my predictions on the rankings going forward, BAMA is improving markedly and there is no indication of that slowing down over the near or medium term. So the subjective and stereotypical bashing of BAMA for such things as “racism” when UMichigan and Penn State have recorded substantially more instances of public racist acts by students over the past 2 years, and to call out the school for the sin of promoting some ranking stat (which school doesn’t do that on their Home Page whenever given the chance?), and the extremely overstated comment that the negative view among NE institutions of BAMA - and I am not saying that there are pockets of the anti-deep-south-college bias existing in the Northeast - it is such bias that is utterly despicable and clearly held by those who are ignorant and / or bigoted. They will either die off soon or, if young, eventually implode from the pathological insanity of their red line / blue line religion.

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Through your help over the years my Northern son attended Alabama graduated 2016. Absolutely great experience and he’s finishing up Doctorate in Forensic Psych. Your info helped us take advantage of great scholarship opportunities.

I have a friend this year during COVID whose daughter has been accepted. However she only has around an 85 to 86 average and did not send in an SAT or ACT score.

I see they have scholarship ranges for those not submitting tests this year from 15K to 8K to 6K. With that average do you think my friend’s daughter might quality for even lowest 6K?

Our last child is now looking at colleges. DD1 went to Alabama and our second child went to a top 10 school. She had a great experience in the engineering school and because of her top grades and extracurriculars was able to get a job in the space industry. However, she had a lot of “extras.” Our last child is a good student but does not have all the bells and whistles. He also wants to pursue engineering in the space field. So my question how many space companies heavily recruit at Alabama? Even when our daughter was going through the interviewing process it was not easy to get follow-up from some of the companies.
Also, where is the engineering school ranked comparatively?
I am not so enamored with the USNEWS yearly report but getting a job in the industry you want is very important.

Best I can tell (my son attends; chose over Purdue) - there isn’t a lot of on campus recruiting but a lot through handshake. There are career fairs (one coming up) and they’ve done virtual stuff due to covid.

One of my son’s friends just did the summer internship at NASA - and that’s an online application and I think you can get that from anywhere and he did from Bama.

If I wanted to work in space, I might look more at a Florida Tech or Embry Riddle for 2nd tier schools as they focus on that aviation arena - but I’ll say this, Alabama won’t be found on a ranking.

But because they are buying in kids, you have tons of super smart kids getting into much better schools, their engineering campus and facilities are second to none, and they seem to have high student satisfaction. They also have clubs where you can get involved in space related stuff.

My son found his job this summer at an automotive OEM on the internet. He applied. Actually, he applied for 10-12 jobs there and this one liked him…got lucky, was his only offer.

He also applied to defense contractors and a few space companies in TX, New Mexico and others. There’s some governmental related work out there.

I think today, short of being at Cal Tech and JPL, the vast majority of targeted stuff has to be done by the kids - finding online, applying for jobs, and crossing their fingers.

I don’t think Bama is known for space engineering although the CEO of Lockeheed Martin went there. In fact, of the Alabama schools, I’d lean toward UAH if they are ok with the smaller schoool, because Huntsville is NASA’s #2 city.

But I think they’ll be as fine at Bama as most any other school for space, short of a few like Cal Tech - assuming they put in the work themselves.

btw - my old boss’s son goes to U Kentucky for engineering - and he built some kind of microscope as a school project that now sits at the International Space Station. And a colleague’s son does stuff for United Technologies and space and he went to Western Michigan.

So if your son has the grit, he’ll be fine.

Mine worked at a major automotive OEM this Summer - his roomies went to GA Tech. My son has already been told he will be invited back. His roomies - not told that.

So where you go matters - but who you are matters more - it’s my belief.

And while I wish my son had gone to Purdue, I should be happy for the fact that including his apartment, car and other stuff, I’ll spend maybe $70K over four years!!

University of Alabama is ranked #102 in the USNews ranking of ABET-accredited undergraduate engineering programs where a Doctorate is offered.

(That’s a quick lookup of one readily accessible ranking. My collection of rankings is at home, and a few years old, used for my older daughter)

Thanks for the responses.
Both of the older siblings had internships at aerospace companies. However for this last kiddo I have a couple of concerns.
My son, who went to the Top 10 University got thru engineering but did not have super high grades. He mentioned that his math courses were way more involved and theory based then his sister’s at Bama. Both were top 5% in high school but Alabama seemed to be not as rigorous. However, when he was introduced to people and shared the school he went to, people were very impressed and commented “ you must be so smart.” His sister, on the other hand w is just as smart but seemed to have to justify why she picked Alabama. Of both kids I think she actually had the better experience. So does it really matter where the school ranks for employers?

What really matters is the experience companies have recruiting employees from schools. If you want an idea of what companies recruit engineers at UA, check out the fall career fair. When I selected the engineering majors, I came up with 61 (out of 132) companies that would be recruiting engineers.

https://app.careerfairplus.com/ua_al/fair/3619/employer/281959

You can also go into LinkedIn and under the University of Alabama selecting Alumni. You can sort thru them and see what companies Alumni end up working for, and in what parts of the country.

https://■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■/school/university-of-alabama/people/

Select your major (“What they Studied”), and you can see what companies they work for and in what parts of the country alumni live in.

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State and local politics affecting Alabama campuses.

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