Still flying high


Like the annual rite of Capistrano's swallows, U.S. News & World Report's Best Colleges rankings returned Friday, reminding those in the higher-education business of the seasons' passing. Chicago again ranked 9th, tied with Columbia University and edging out Dartmouth College, with which the University tied last year. Northwestern University came in at No. 14.

Dean of College Admissions Ted O'Neill, AM'70, said in an interview that though "[the ranking] is a nice recognition of a great university, it recognizes the things we don't consider the most important." In creating its rankings, U.S. News & World Report uses variables such as student retention, endowment size per student, and alumni-giving rates. O'Neill said he was confident that "discerning students don't pay much attention to the rankings...because it’s a collection of data that doesn’t address issues of excellence or greatness."

In its coverage of the rankings' release, the Chronicle of Higher Education noted the swelling rancor among school presidents—only 51 percent filled out peer-assessment surveys, down from 68 percent in 2000. There has been a growing demand for rankings that more accurately reflect educational excellence. Although it is unclear what data such a ranking would use, dozens of administrators will meet in the coming month to mull plans for a university-generated system. Meanwhile, in the past decade U.S. News & World Report has seen the rise of several competitors in the rankings business, including Arizona State University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Times Higher Education Supplement, and Newsweek. These alternative rankings take into account other variables, such as faculty output based on awards and publishing volume.

Here is this year's U.S. News & World Report list of top national universities:

1) Princeton University
2) Harvard University
3) Yale University
4) Stanford University
5) University of Pennsylvania
5) California Institute of Technology
7) Massachusetts Institute of Technology
8) Duke University
9) University of Chicago
9) Columbia University

U.S. News & World Report's "Best Colleges 2008" issue hits newsstands today, August 20.

Ethan Frenchman, '08

August 20, 2007