In its annual survey of colleges and universities, U.S. News and World Report has ranked a surprised Cornell 14th while Ivy peer Princeton sits at the top of the list for the second consecutive year.
“We immediately said, ‘huh?'” said Vice President for University Relations Henrik N. Dullea ’61.
According to Dullea, the magazine editors “changed their methodology” in computing the rankings; over the past three years Cornell had maintained its academic reputation, hanging around the 8th spot.
Because criteria such as the faculty-student ratio have been affected by the way the magazine measures independent study work, masters study and thesis work, “nothing here changed but how they played with the numbers,” according to Dullea.
The University maintains that its selectivity, yield rate and SAT scores have stayed the same or improved in past years, and for this reason Cornell and many other universities tend to agree that the rankings should not be taken too seriously.
“While we appreciate the recognition in these rankings, we don’t put much stock into this particular ranking, or to others like it,” said Princeton Spokesperson Marilyn Marks.
“There are issues of methodology and subjectivity, and we don’t believe any ranking can capture whether any institution is appropriate for any individual student,” Marks added.
Dullea acknowledged the campus-wide attention to the rankings, especially among freshmen.
“We attempt to describe to them why the score changed from one year to another. We know they are aware [of the score],” Dullea said.
Despite criticism that the rankings undermine the goals of higher education, the magazine, which publishes the lists as aids to prospective college students, attests the rankings are only designed to be a starting point.
“The hundreds of thousands of people who buy our guidebook are not buying it to find out who’s No. 1,” said Peter Cary, U.S. News special projects editor. “They’re really buying these guidebooks to mine the data, to find out what college is right for them.”
Yale and Harvard tied for second, followed by the California Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Staff Writer Carlos Perkins and the Associated Press contributed to this story.
Archived article by Alison Thomas