August 24, 2004

C.U. Earns U.S. News Rank 14

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For the fourth year in a row, Cornell University has been ranked as the 14th best university in the country.

Topping the list this year are Harvard and Princeton which tied for number one, followed by Yale and the University of Pennsylvania at number three. Columbia University and Dartmouth College tied for ninth.

Unlike last year, Cornell ranked below Brown University, which shot up from 17th to 13th. As recently as 1999, Cornell was ranked sixth in the U.S. News list, but according to Ronald G. Ehrenberg, Irving M. Ives Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and director of Cornell’s Higher Education Research Institute, Cornell’s decline in the rankings is the result of the changing criteria used in the U.S. News survey as well as a reporting error made by Cornell in 1999 that showed a higher faculty to student ratio than actually existed.

Since many of Cornell’s colleges are funded by the State of New York, recent cuts made to state education spending have meant that Cornell’s funding has not kept pace with other schools at the top of the list, which are privately funded.

“The annual US News and World Report rankings always get a lot of attention but we’ve found that they have little effect on applications to Cornell,” said Doris Davis, associate provost for admissions and enrollment.

“We do not formulate policy at Cornell in order to affect the US News rankings,” Davis said. Another factor contributing to Cornell’s standing is its rate of improvement compared with other schools.

“Cornell’s students are getting better but students at other schools are getting better faster,” said Ehrenberg.

Ehrenberg believes, however, that Cornell has many strengths that the rankings do not reflect.

“We are a very different than the schools ranked higher than us. We offer a broader range of study than the others which are mainly either liberal arts or engineering schools. Students in the School of Art, Architecture and planning are admitted on the basis of portfolios rather than test scores,” said Ehrenberg.

“Cornell should spend more time promoting what it has to offer than obsessing with rankings,” said Ehrenberg, who went on to praise the University’s new website and the efforts of President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77 and his efforts to improve the image of Cornell.

While many students interviewed agreed that the rankings were only one of many factors that influenced their decisions to go to Cornell, some expressed disappointment with the University’s place on the list.

“I like that it is an Ivy League school. I like that it is big and I like that it had the program I wanted. Rankings didn’t matter at all,” said Stephanie Herschaft ’08.

“That’s probably why I’m going to transfer,” said Michael Bolos ’08, referring to Cornell’s ranking, “You want to go to a top school and how else to you know [besides the US News rankings]?”

“The rankings mattered to me when I applied but I did not know how Cornell ranked compared to other Ivy League schools. In my mind, Cornell is a better school than Penn, Brown or Dartmouth,” said Sam Lundin ’07.

Archived article by Daniel Palmadesso
Sun Staff Writer