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Surprised that Vanderbilt's ranking remains the same after US News

TimeUpJuniorTimeUpJunior 162 replies26 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 188 Junior Member
dropped the acceptance rate as a factor and reduced the weight of test scores, two areas that Vanderbilt has done well on. I guess that Vanderbilt must have done well somewhere else to counter that.

I am optimistic that Vanderbilt will continue to rise in the coming years.

What do you guys think?
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Replies to: Surprised that Vanderbilt's ranking remains the same after US News

  • bernie12bernie12 5414 replies10 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 5,424 Senior Member
    edited September 2018
    Should be alright. However, keep in mind that other variables interact with each other. Though they may drop or re-weight those two (BTW, scores and stuff wasn't going to do VU much good with the new SAT and all. The enrolled scores of most of the elite privates are starting to converge at the upper ranges in a way such that differences don't matter. Notice how Rice had a rather large jump), things like the peer and counselor ratings (if they still have that) and reputational rankings will be influenced by them whether they are actual variables included in the ranking or not.

    Outsiders (including highered) may not know other about the state of other factors that contribute to the health of schools, but they do tend to know if a school is progressing/have momentum in terms of things mostly handled by the admissions office, endowment, data like that. It will be hard for any school to break its current threshold. If anything, they will hover around the old rankings unless there are bigger changes. I don't think those factors being altered should have had much of an effect. Unlike other schools (say Emory, WUSTL, and some others I think), I don't think VU has attempted enrollment growth, so the faculty: student ratio shouldn't be changing out of its favor like some other schools. I would argue that it should be somewhere around where it is. It looks like many of the top 10 (especially the "older" ones) schools are just kind of "different" academically than the other schools in the top 30 or so, such that (10) is the magical threshold. Unless there are changes in that area (I do not count construction) to make waves good enough to hit/resemble top 10 schools more, most outside (hell, many inside do as well. Stanford seems to currently be getting punished because it won't play the stats whore game as well as its peers, but it has stereotypical academic and intellectual marks of a top 5-10 school no doubt) of that will just kind of fluctuate with schools (including themselves) going in and out of ties with respect to these metrics.

    The point is: Outside of keeping the admissions progressing and the student:faculty ratio and endowment stable, schools don't actually have to do all that much different from before to keep something similar to their rankings on the old or current metrics. Nor should they, I don't think, at least not with rankings in mind. If the school wants to do something big, do it because it benefits the university's outcomes, productivity, and general health. I would stop worrying about the ranking (which is great) and be optimistic that VU will continue to do things to enhance the student experience and perhaps start or continue to work on academic quality (all elite schools can work on this, whether they are ranked number 1,2, whatever. They can follow the well established trends of many older top 10s or find their own ways) just because....not for the rankings. Be optimistic about stuff like that, and not whether USNWR will notice (they won't. They are more likely to notice a large endowment increase than the money being allocated in a way to dramatically enhanced UG academics, or post-grad scholarship outcomes, anything like that). Any school looking to move up significantly would also want to dramatically enhance its research infrastructure as this gets the attention of reputation raters, which makes sense, but ultimately may have little to do with undergrad. education.
    edited September 2018
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  • northwestynorthwesty 3412 replies9 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,421 Senior Member
    edited September 2018
    Bernie correctly points out that the data from these clumps of top schools are highly similar and converged. They all have silly low admit rates. They all have high test scores. So at least over the short term, changes to the USNWR ranking formula are likely to impact all the close peer schools in the same way.
    Last year, Vandy was tied at #14 with Brown, Cornell and Rice, with ND and WUSTL tied at #18. This year, Brown, Vandy #14t; Cornell, Rice #16t; ND #18; WUSTL #19t.
    At least among the private schools in this band, on a relative basis the new USNWR boss is pretty much the same as the old boss.

    edited September 2018
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  • Sam-I-AmSam-I-Am 587 replies22 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 609 Member
    I think Vandy's rank of #1 school for financial aid according to Princeton Review helped keep Vandy at its #14 slot when Cornell and Rice slipped, ever so slightly. If social mobility is now a factor for USNWR, then great FA will help top schools that are generous like Vanderbilt.
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  • TimeUpJuniorTimeUpJunior 162 replies26 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 188 Junior Member
    edited September 2018
    Agreed that in a short term, the up and down movements of a school within its peer group are negligible, but if you look at it from a longer perspective, you start to see a trend.

    School 2008 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 2019 Change (2008 to 2019)

    Dartmouth 11 11 11 9 11 10 10 11 12 11 11 12 -1
    Northwestern 14 12 12 12 12 12 12 13 12 12 11 10 +4
    WUSTL 12 12 12 13 14 14 14 14 15 19 18 19 -7
    JHU 14 15 14 13 13 13 12 12 10 10 11 10 +4
    Cornell 12 14 15 15 15 15 16 15 15 15 14 16 -4
    Brown 14 16 16 15 15 15 14 16 14 14 14 14 0
    Vanderbilt 19 18 17 17 17 17 17 16 15 15 14 14 +5
    Rice 17 17 17 17 17 17 18 19 18 15 14 16 +1
    Notre Dame 19 18 20 19 19 17 18 16 18 15 18 18 +1
    Emory 17 18 17 20 20 20 20 21 21 20 21 22 -5


    Among these 10 schools, which I consider them to be peers, WUSTL dropped the most, 7 spots. Northwester and JHU made the most impressive gain of 4 spots at this high level. Dartmouth, Brown, Rice, and Notre Dame barely moved. Vanderbilt and Emory started almost at the same ranking, in a decade, they moved in the opposite directions by 5 spots.

    If Vanderbilt can keep the momentum, I have high hope that in another decade it will squeeze into top 10.
    edited September 2018
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  • northwestynorthwesty 3412 replies9 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,421 Senior Member
    edited September 2018
    "If Vanderbilt can keep the momentum, I have high hope that in another decade it will squeeze into top 10."
    To crack the top 10, Vandy would have to jump ahead of Brown, Dartmouth, CalTech, NWU and JHU. ALL of them. While also managing to stay ahead of all of Cornell, Rice, ND, etc.

    That would take many decades, if ever. Since all those schools are great too. And none of them will be standing still.
    edited September 2018
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  • TimeUpJuniorTimeUpJunior 162 replies26 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 188 Junior Member
    At the moment, Vanderbilt is ahead of Cornell, Rice, and ND, is tied with Brown, is at the heals of Dartmouth and CalTech. The real targets for Vanderbilt are NWU and JHU.

    Yes, they all are great schools, but some stays relatively still, Dartmouth and Brown, for example.
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  • Sam-I-AmSam-I-Am 587 replies22 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 609 Member
    edited September 2018
    Not sure when this will affect the rankings but I believe I see a trend among schools like Vandy and UChicago. Most upperclassmen once always lived off campus, but now the schools are trying to provide on campus options. UChicago opened its huge North Dorm towers a couple of years ago but most of its upperclassmen still live off campus. Vandy opened Ingram Commons in 2008 to give freshmen a common experience and then in 2014 they opened the new two residential college at Kissam for upperclassmen. Now they are building two more colleges on the site of the old Carmichael Towers. I wonder if Vandy is leading the way to provide much wanted, quality on campus housing options. I believe this together with good on campus dinning, studying, cultural and recreational options has the to potential to truly improve the student experience. At UChicago upperclassmen mostly live and eat in off campus apartments in a neighborhood where they must exercise caution, and although freshmen are required to purchase the meal plan, their dorms and cafeterias are scattered across a wide campus. Not the common shared experience that the Ingram Commons provides. Vandy currently has a superior living arrangement and I only see that getting better with more dormitory options on the the horizon for upperclassmen. Vandy is even rebuilding its on campus Greek houses as well and designing the streets to include more park space.

    I have read here on CC that the dormitory situation at Brown is terrible with old buildings. My kid experienced a poor dormitory at Cornell during a visit. Most upperclassmen at Cornell also live off campus. These are 3 peer schools of Vandy and I think Vandy has the jump on them and may even be planning to provide graduate school housing in the future. Of course these peer schools may have similar plans, though I am not sure they can all pull them off as well as Vandy seems to be doing. Northwestern has renovated its dorms along Sherman Avenue, though I am not aware of them recently adding actual housing capacity.

    I suspect there is probably a revenue factor to supplying more on campus housing. On campus housing for 4 years is not for everyone, of course, but it is excellent for students to have good on campus options. Some kids will want to live off campus to save money and that is fine. But as these schools compete more for top students, I could see campus improvements in housing and culture as the next field of competition with classrooms, performance space, lounges, cafes and working studios incorporated into the new housing.
    edited September 2018
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  • northwestynorthwesty 3412 replies9 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,421 Senior Member
    Rice has had a full residential college system for a long time. ND pretty much does too with its "stay hall" system. That set up is a defining characteristic of both those schools.

    Dartmouth rolled out their house system in fall 2016, which is pretty similar to Vandy's. Frosh all live together, and then live at their "house" for the next three years. Like at Vandy, the Dartmouth house system is hoped to take a bite out of the greek system.

    If the schools want to require kids to live on campus for 3-4 years, the trend seems to be that the school needs to justify that requirement by actually doing something with that residential experience beyond providing food and shelter. Once fully built out, Vandy's residential colleges should be a real draw.
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  • GeronimoAlpacaGeronimoAlpaca 135 replies8 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 143 Junior Member
    @TimeUpJunior The real key for Vanderbilt to ascend higher and crack the top-10 is its Peer Assessment Survey score. I don't have this year's US News compass, but last year, Vanderbilt's peer assess score was 4.2 / 5.0. Schools like Brown, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and Caltech have Peer Assessment scores more in the 4.4 - 4.6 range. I don't remember the exact percentile weighting off the top of my head, but I believe something like 15% of a school's total raw score is based on the Peer Assessment survey. Unless US News does away with the survey component or significantly reduces its weighting due to lower response rates, the 3 or 4 schools ranked just above Vanderbilt will be very difficult to displace.

    In addition, bear in mind that every one of these schools has an Institutional Research division that scrutinizes every single one of these criteria and weightings to make sure that they are maximizing their score. Sure, a school like Clemson or Northeastern can rise rapidly as they both did several years ago by becoming smarter about checking more of the boxes that US News weights heavily. But it is so much harder for a top-20 type school to engineer those factors to further gain as they've already been maximized by the statistics gurus in the Institutional Research division. For example, Vanderbilt's middle-50% testing range is now something like 33-35 on the ACT, which is higher than many schools ranked above it. I'm not sure Vanderbilt can move the needle much further on selectivity.

    By the way, you also noted that Emory's ranking has slipped a bit over the past 10 years or so. I believe Emory's slightly lower ranking is probably due to the fact that Emory seems to not place quite as high an emphasis on just raw grades and test scores. And Emory seems to attract more QuestBridge applicants than the schools ranked right above it, perhaps because the multicultural draw of Atlanta remains strong. All these schools talk a lot about "holistic admissions," but I think Emory may actually practice what they preach.
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  • Sam-I-AmSam-I-Am 587 replies22 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 609 Member
    I agree with posts above. I need to correct my post as I have been told that Vanderbilt undergraduates are required to live on campus for 4 years. Maybe someone can confirm. I believe Vandy plans to build dorms for grad students in the future. Perhaps that is a revenue generating plan but should also provide a good option for those students.
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  • Sam-I-AmSam-I-Am 587 replies22 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 609 Member
    I visited WashU and was impressed with their dorms. Very new and concentrated together.
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  • emorynavyemorynavy 395 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 398 Member
    @TimeUpJunior
    There's no point for Vandy to "sneak" there way into the Top 10, if Academics don't see them as such. Vandy's ranking is elevated by strong resources ans Stats. However there peer reputation is a 4.2. Right above Vandy's peers of Rice, Notre Dame, Emory and Wash U at a 4.1. Compared to a 4.5 for JHU a top 10 school. If schools focus on what really matters like academic prowess then these tactics would not be necessary.

    @GeronimoAlpaca
    Emory dropped due to the recession. Emory lost a lot more money than it's peers due to Coke stock crashing completely.
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  • CU123CU123 3321 replies58 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,379 Senior Member
    Getting into the top 10 will be a difficult chore, there is a ton of competition from very good schools. Still, personally I think the value of the degrees from the top 20 is a least comparable.
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  • JayZee21JayZee21 149 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 152 Junior Member
    If u r in top 25, you are elite. Top 15, u r exceptionally elite. That's all that matters. Movement in the rankings after that has very little meaning. Vanderbilt is an awesome and elite university headed by an exceptional Chancellor.
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  • IWannaHelpIWannaHelp 387 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 389 Member
    edited September 2018
    @TimeUpJunior
    You will see Northwestern didn’t really make impressive gain once you look further back. This is actually the fifth time Northwestern has been ranked in the top-10 since the beginning of USN ranking.
    edited September 2018
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  • TimeUpJuniorTimeUpJunior 162 replies26 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 188 Junior Member
    edited September 2018
    Thanks for pointing that out, @IWannaHelp Yes, we love that guy! @JayZee21

    I went back to when USNWR started this ranking business in 1983. This is the summary of how these peer schools performed.

    NWU started at 17 in 1988, ends at 10 in 2019, a change of 7 spots upwards.
    JHU started at 16 in 1988, ends at 10 in 2019, a change of 6 spots upwards.
    Brown started at 7 in 1985, ends at 14 in 2019, a change of 7 spots downwards.
    Cornell started at 8 in 1983, end at 16 in 2019, a change of 8 spots downwards.
    Dartmouth started at 10 in 1983, ends at 10 in 2019, no change.
    Rice started at 14 in 1988, ends at 16 in 2019, a change of 2 spots downwards.
    ND started at 18 in 1989, ends at 18 in 2019, no change.
    WUSTL started at 23 in 1988, ends at 19 in 2019, a change of 4 spots upwards
    Emory started at 25 in 1988, ends at 21 in 2019, a change of 4 spots upwards.
    CalTech started at 12 in 1983, ends at 12 in 2019, no change.
    Vanderbilt started at 24 in 1990, ends at 14 in 2019, a change of 10 spots upwards.


    Among these peer schools, Cornell and Brown performed the worst. Dartmouth, ND, and CalTech remain at the same rankings as they started. Vanderbilt has performed the best in climbing up the ranking. NWU and JHU have done very well, starting at relatively higher points(harder to improve, therefore more impressive) than Vanderbilt.

    My money will be on NWU, JHU, and Vanderbilt to climb up still.
    edited September 2018
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  • cornelldad10cornelldad10 26 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 27 Junior Member
    Among colleges, Oberlin dropped from #1 in 1983 to #30 in 2018.

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  • monydadmonydad 7794 replies158 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 7,952 Senior Member
    edited September 2018
    Changes in US News rankings have not always reflected changes in the actual schools themselves, but rather changes in what US News decided to include in its rankings and changes in its weightings of same.

    That makes predictions of future rankings a little more guesswork. One can predict that a given school will be getting yet more relatively selective, with positive impact on rankings. But on the other hand it is harder to predict that US News will now start including a particular new factor not previously evaluated, and/or change the weightings, and these may change the rankings in a less predictable manner.
    edited September 2018
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  • GeronimoAlpacaGeronimoAlpaca 135 replies8 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 143 Junior Member
    For those interested in the historic rankings that @TimeUpJunior referenced in post #16, linked below is a helpful resource.

    You have to scroll about halfway down the page to see the link to the historical rankings. However, as @monydad noted, the US News methodology, factors, and weightings have been tweaked and adjusted over time, so it's not like the ranking methodology baseline is the same across all years.

    http://andyreiter.com/datasets/
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  • IWannaHelpIWannaHelp 387 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 389 Member
    @TimeUpJunior. One of the better ways is to compare 2018 number with the historic average of 1988 through 2017. ND started at 18 but there were few early years in which they were outside the top 25 (for those years, maybe you can assume 26 if you don’t have the actual number). This way, you are at least considering data from all years instead of just two years.
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