University stands tall in national rankings

Are you wondering if you made the right decision by attending the University of Minnesota? It’s understandable.
The decision to attend a certain college is one of the most important to be made in life. Many parents and students spend years deliberating about the qualities and characteristics they are looking for in a school and spend large amounts of money on preparatory tests and classes to ensure that their children attend their first choice.
Be reassured, though, that you could not have chosen a better school than the University of Minnesota.
Most importantly, you are attending a university — the third largest in the United States. Universities have resources and connections that liberal arts colleges do not. Because universities are typically larger than colleges and have larger departments, they are able to offer more opportunities for their students. Larger departments have more professors, with more connections within academia because they are more engaged in research than teaching. Universities have larger facilities like libraries, study abroad programs, extracurricular activities and more student groups.
You should also recognize the value of attending a public university, as opposed to a private college or university. Many private schools cost as much for one year as the University does for four. But even if the costs were equal, the University would still be the better school. By utilizing public universities partially supported by tax revenue, students cn avoid the ridiculous prices most private schools charge. Public schools also attract students from more income levels than do private schools, ensuring a more diverse student body.
The University is located in a setting ideal for college students, as well. Few schools are located in a metro area with a state Capital and a regional business and cultural center. The proximity to these resources has many benefits to students, from internships and extracurricular activities to professors who are politicians or regional managers of companies.
The University’s campus is perfectly situated across from downtown Minneapolis, with its entertainment and cultural opportunities, while still providing a big, sprawling campus crossing the Mississippi river.
And the University’s undergraduate curriculum is one of the most highly rated in the nation, a fact that several of the popular college guides don’t reveal. These guides, like the one in U.S. News and World Report, use criteria that protect the status of the established schools and fail to recognize the quality of public schools.
The most objectionable practice is including the freshman class’ academic profile in an assessment of the quality of the curriculum — the two qualities couldn’t be more unrelated. U.S. News also assigns 25 percent of the total ranking to graduation rates, an area where public schools perform more poorly than private schools because of the broader selection of students they serve.
There is one guide that is much more accurate than the others. The Gourman Report, which began in 1967, provides the most thorough and objective evaluation of graduate and undergraduate schools.
Unlike any other college guide, the report evaluates qualitative and quantitative measures of every college and university, and every department and program these schools offer. The evaluation is so thorough, it includes assessments of the curricular content of the programs and departments, the quality and productivity of the staff, quality of career and counseling services, and the quality of the library and its materials. Because of its thoroughness, the report is only released every three to four years.
The University ranks very highly overall, with several of its undergraduate majors placing best in the nation.
The University is ranked as the 22nd best undergraduate school in the country. The top of the list is mostly comprised of Ivy League and other private universities, but the University is the sixth-highest rated public university. Because this ranking includes all four-year schools in the country, the University is ranked higher than even the most prestigious private colleges, such as Williams, Swarthmore and Carleton.
The report’s evaluation of individual departments is also indicative of the University’s specific strengths. Five majors are ranked as number one in the nation. If you are planning to major in chemical engineering, Scandinavian languages, geography, forestry or home economics, your program of study will be better than at any other school, including Harvard, Yale or Princeton.
Seventeen of the University’s programs are in the top five in the nation, 36 are in the top 10 and all but a handful are in the top 40.
Some of the noteworthy rankings are:
ù The journalism and mass communication department is ranked fourth in the nation, ahead of every Ivy League university, Wisconsin and Berkeley.
ù The psychology department is ranked fifth, ahead of Harvard, Cornell and the University of Chicago.
ù The political science department is ranked ninth, ahead of Washington D.C. area schools such as Georgetown, President Clinton’s alma mater, George Washington University and the American University.
ù The economics department is ranked seventh, right behind Yale, and above Johns Hopkins, Cornell and Berkeley.
ù The American studies department is ranked seventh, above all of the Ivy League colleges except Yale.
ù The history and English departments, while not as strong as some others, are still ranked 24th and 33rd, respectively.
Other rankings include a 10th place finish for the University’s overall engineering curriculum. Pre-legal education is 20th, and premed education is 24th. The University libraries are ranked 12th, and the undergraduate curriculum is 13th.
Some people leave the University without recognizing its quality and the opportunities it provides. However, understand that the University is one of the best schools, at a cheap price, in an ideal location. Discover the opportunities here that most college students don’t have, and take advantage of them.
And when you see me on campus, give me a gift, like money or food, or something of value to pawn, in gratitude of my sharing this information with you.
You all owe me.
Dan Maruska is a Daily columnist. He welcomes comments to [email protected]