U.’s new ranking should be taken lightly


The U.S. News and World Report recently released its rankings for the Best Colleges 2013, an annual report and ranking of both public and private colleges and universities throughout the country. The top three spots, perhaps unsurprisingly, consisted of Harvard, Princeton and Yale University, respectively in the overall “National Universities” category. The University’s New Brunswick campus came in at a disheartening 68 — a four-place drop from the 64th spot occupied by the University in 2009.

The U.S. News and World Report’s annual ranking — and those similar to it — have, for most of the University recent history, served as a point of grief for students and faculty alike. The reason for this seems to stem from the fact that, for most of its recent history, the University and its students have witnessed a slow decline in their school’s academic standing both nationally and globally — at least, according to syndicated rankings like the U.S. News and World Report. In the Academic Ranking of World Universities — most famously know as the Shanghai rankings — the University experienced a similar decline when it dropped from 38 in 2003 to 61 in 2012.

But while rankings like these should not be disregarded entirely, concerned students and faculty would do well to keep in mind several important things regarding them and their potential impact on University life.

Firstly, the report is not exhaustive. While it does take a number of factors into account when considering a school’s standing, many of those factors which we often consider prerequisite to an exceptional institution, and which the University itself boasts, were not. Among the factors considered are in-state and out-of state tuition, enrollment figures and accepted admissions percentages. However, things like student progress and likelihood of graduation are not. Clearly, these elements are not only important, but also fundamental to a school’s reputation.

Secondly, while it may claim to be objective, the report is not entirely so. One obvious problem we can immediately derive from the report’s ranking is its inclusion of both public and private institutions. Obviously, the reputation of public institutions — especially when conditioned on something like accepted admissions percentages — are going to pale in comparison to the nation’s most prestigious Ivy League institutions. In this way, the ranking seems to favor exclusivity over effectiveness.

Lastly, despite the sub-par ranking, the University’s future is looking bright. Recent progress relating to the University’s future restructuring has brought with it the potential for enormous improvements in the quality of a University education, and, by extension, its reputation.

Of course, none of this negates the fact that the University has been falling behind in reputation and esteem in recent years, and must make it a point to catch back up. The U.S. news and World Report is, flawed or not, one of the most popular ranking systems in the country, and for that fact alone deserves our attention. But it’s equally important to remember that such a ranking does not spell the end of the world for the University or its students.

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