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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis drops to No. 33 in U.S. News and World Report

Published: September 21, 2012
Section: Front Page

Still ranked among the top universities in the nation, according to the U.S. News and World Report released on Sept. 12, Brandeis dropped two spots to number 33 in the Best National Universities 2013 edition, following New York University and preceding the College of William and Mary.

Each year since 1999, Brandeis has been ranked number 31-34. Two years ago, Brandeis ranked number 34, and last year Brandeis ranked number 31. Brandeis Associate Vice President for Communications Bill Burger, said that these rankings fluctuate each year and the university is not overly concerned with changes by one or two spots.

“We are not concerned with minor blimps, up or down a spot,” Burger said. “We watch them but we don’t obsess over them. We understand how the game works.”

The methodology of measuring these rankings is very complex and does not stay constant, according to Burger.

The rankings allow prospective college students and families to compare the relative quality of colleges and universities at a glance. Some of these factors include first-year retention rates, student-faculty ratio and graduation rates. The system is broken down into two parts: quantitative measures that experts believe are the best indicators of academic quality and the U.S. News’ own research of important factors of education.

Schools are first categorized by their mission, which separates the types of higher education schools—originating from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s Basic Classification in 2010. This system was developed in 1970 but has been utilized by the U.S. News and World report since it first published the rankings in 1983. Higher education researchers extensively use this system as a means for classifying schools and it is the accepted standard in higher education that ultimately allows the U.S. Department of Education to effectively organize data.

After schools are categorized, the U.S. News and World Report gathers data from each college, on up to 16 factors, each of which is assigned a weight that is based on the Report’s judgment. Following these steps, the colleges and universities in each category are ranked against one another, based on their weighted scores.

The following categories and weightings indicate the U.S. News and World Report’s measurements of academic quality: undergraduate academic reputation (22.5 percent), retention rates (20 percent), faculty resources (20 percent), student selectivity (15 percent), financial resources (10 percent), graduation rate performance (7.5 percent) and alumni giving rate (5 percent).

A number of schools are not ranked and are listed under a separate category if they do not consider standardized test scores in the admissions process. Other schools are not ranked if they have fewer than 200 students, a large number of “nontraditional” students and no first-year students.

In addition to being ranked one of the top universities, Brandeis also ranks 31st in “Best Values Schools.” This category only takes into account the schools that were already ranked in or near the top half of their Best Colleges 2013 edition ranking categories. The ranks of the “Best Values Schools” are measured upon three variables: ratio of quality to price, need-based aid and average discount.

Burger remarks that while there is a methodology to these rankings, in no way are they scientific, but rather a solid resource of information.

“Even the U.S. World and News Report strongly suggests that students don’t place too much weight upon these rankings,” Burger said. “We don’t view this as a competition, and like us, other schools tend to move up and down.”

“The whole idea is to stay true to yourself as a university but always look for ways to improve,” he added. “If you set your own course and stay true to your mission, long-term things will take care of themselves.”