U ranks in top third of nation

Allison Wickler

It may not be top three, but the University is starting to climb the ranks among top schools in the country.

The University was ranked 67th out of 248 national universities, both public and private, on a list released Aug. 20 by U.S. News & World Report.

This year, the University moved up on the “America’s Best Colleges” list from last year’s ranking of 74th.

U.S. News & World Report uses an extensive list of criteria – including graduation and retention rates, spending per student, student-faculty ratios and test scores – to annually rank the nation’s universities and colleges. School officials also submit a “peer assessment” of their school’s programs, which accounts for 25 percent of the ranking.

The University also ranked 30th on the Newsweek/Kaplan list of Top 100 Global Universities, which looked at how universities have integrated themselves on an international level, including the presence of international students and faculty.

In its rankings, U.S. News also listed the Carlson School of Management as the 13th-best business program in the nation, while the University’s undergraduate engineering program ranked 19th. The University as a whole ranked as the 27th-best public university in the nation.

Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Craig Swan said student interest in the University gives a different picture than U.S. News does.

“I think that students, especially in Minnesota and Wisconsin, understand the seriousness of our commitment isn’t reflected in the mechanical way that U.S. News does things,” he said.

Swan did acknowledge that the University’s graduation rates have not been where they should be, but said that in October they will announce more aggressive graduation rate goals.

“We have very serious graduation rate goals which are significantly above where we are now,” he said.

Robert J. Morse, director of data research at U.S. News & World Report, said that many college-bound students and their families are trying to judge the relative merits of one school versus another school.

“We feel that we are providing valid consumer information,” he said.

Of the other schools in the Big Ten, only Indiana and Michigan State ranked lower, tied at 70. Northwestern ranked the highest, at 14, followed by Michigan at 24 and Wisconsin at 34.

Although student-faculty ratios can be an issue at a large university, professor Timothy Brennan of the cultural studies and comparative literature department said he hasn’t experienced this problem in his classes. He has also been provided with good resources and facilities during his career here, he said.

In response to the overall ranking, he said an increased focus on humanities programs could promote the University in future rankings.

There is “so much emphasis on the sciences,” Brennan said, and a school with the capacity to pay attention to the humanities sets itself apart from others.

Students at the University can become distracted by the opportunities of a big city, which can affect their education, Brennan said.

Karin Anderson, a first-year business major, said she looked at last year’s ranking for the Carlson School of Management while considering different schools, and found it was ranked higher than many other programs.

However, she said, “I thought the ‘U’ would be ranked higher. I was surprised by that.”

Business first-year Danielle Hilson said the University still offers strong programs.

“In this area, it’s one of the best schools,” she said.

Aerospace engineering sophomore Brandon Wiegert said he doesn’t believe the ranking system determines what kind of education a student receives.

Some people put a lot of weight on these rankings, he said, but “how any school fits you really depends on what kind of person you are.”

Swan said he believes that despite the ranking, the University is moving upward among national universities.

“We make decisions on what we think are right for students and the University and the state of Minnesota,” he said. “We believe that over time that will be reflected in these ratings games, but it certainly doesn’t happen right away.”