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The Daily Wildcat

 

University of Arizona tumbles in newest U.S. News & World Report rankings

University of Arizona students at Old Main
JEFF SMITH
University of Arizona students at Old Main

Both the UA and ASU lost ground in the latest Best National Universities list from the U.S. News & World Report. 

According to the Report, the UA slipped 18 spots from last year to No. 120 in the nation, while ASU backslid 22 places from No. 121 to No. 143. Northern Arizona University, in Flagstaff, was not included on the list for the third straight year.  

Top-tier mainstays Harvard, Princeton and Yale universities lead the rankings with Columbia University at No. 4 and Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania tied for No. 5.

The rankings, which are published annually, are based on 16 different categories meant to signify academic excellence and quality. Some of these factors include class sizes, acceptance, graduation and dropout rates.

Critics of the ranking system have often stated that the rankings unfairly favor larger, private schools at the expense of smaller public universities, since a college’s reputation makes up 22.5 percent of the score used to calculate its final ranking.

One such critic is UA President Robert Shelton. 

“”I just don’t pay much attention to these rankings since they are designed to favor well-to-do private schools with high dollar-to-student ratios,”” Shelton said. ””We have a broader mission.””

According to Jennifer Fitzenberger, the UA director of external communications, the broader mission of the UA includes providing access to higher education for all qualified Arizona students and a unique learning experience for all those enrolled.

“”These rankings don’t accurately reflect the university’s benefits to the state,”” Fitzenberger said. “”We are committed to being accessible to qualified students in the state and access and the U.S. News rankings are not very compatible.””

Fitzenberger did say that the UA might pay more attention to the rankings if the criteria were different. “”As the methodology stands, we don’t see (the rankings) as a true measure of the quality of an institution,”” Fitzenberger said. 

Despite slipping almost 20 spots in the latest rankings, the UA still managed to garner a spot as a Tier 1 university nationally. ASU also earned the designation. Additionally, ASU earned the Report’s “”Up-and-Coming”” distinction, which is awarded to colleges who have made recent changes that may advance their future ranking. It is the third straight year ASU has earned the distinction.

The U.S. News & World Report rankings are published annually and are based on data submitted by universities from the previous academic year. Though the ranking criterion remains relatively static as a whole, this year a larger portion of a university’s score was based off of graduation rates. Both ASU and UA had four-year graduation rates below 40 percent as of 2010.  

In spite of recent falls in the rankings, the UA hasn’t experienced any effects on the number or quality of applicants, with this year’s freshman class being the first in UA history to exceed 7,000 students.

“”Lots of students don’t even ask about rankings anymore,”” said Kasey Urquidez, the UA interim assistant vice president for Student Affairs and dean of admissions. “”It used to be very important years ago but now students are looking for a school to more cater to their interests.””

Urquidez also shared some of the criticisms of the rankings.

“”I think lots of institutions don’t pay too much attention, don’t adhere, to these rankings,”” Urquidez said. “”The schools at the top of the list always stay the same, so there doesn’t seem to be a way to improve your ranking all that much.”” 

That is not to say that national rankings such as these are wholly unimportant, however.

“”Of course it’s important, of course we want to be higher,”” Urquidez said. “”But there’s so much out there that students want to see and experience and I think we offer an amazing opportunity for students here and we will continue to try and show them that.””

 

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