August 21, 2006

Cornell Ranks 12th

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In the recently released 2007 “America’s Best Colleges,” U.S. News and World Report ranked Cornell as the 12th-best university. The University also placed 11th in the “Best Business Programs and Departments” category and tenth in “Best Engineering Programs Where the Highest Degree is a Doctorate.”
Cornell had ranked 13th in last year’s national rankings, tied with Johns Hopkins University, while this year, the twelfth position is being shared with Washington University in St. Louis. Both universities had an overall score of 87.
The University received higher rankings in individual academic programs, including first in engineering/physics, fourth in agricultural engineering, seventh in materials engineering and ninth in civil engineering, environmental engineering and electrical and computer engineering.
“I am pleased that some of the dimensions of Cornell’s greatness are recognized by the rankings,” Provost Biddy Martin said in a press release. “As it should be, Cornell consistently ranks as one of the top universities in the country — indeed, in the world.”
Princeton moved into the list’s top position this year with an overall score of 100, breaking its three-year long tie with Harvard, which received a 99. In the rest of the Ivy League, Yale ranked third with a 98, the University of Pennsylvania ranked seventh with a 93, Dartmouth and Columbia shared ninth with the University of Chicago with a score of 89 and Brown placed 15th with a score of 85.
According to U.S. News, the rankings are based on a system of weighted scores in 15 different categories. The scores are then calculated together to form the overall score, which is used to perform the actual ranking. For national universities like Cornell, defined as schools that offer “a full range of undergraduate majors as well as master’s and doctoral degrees,” a 25 percent weight is assigned to peer assessment of the school, based on data collected by Chicago-based research firm Synovate. Additionally, a 20 percent weight is also placed on faculty resources and graduation and student retention rates.
Cornell received a score of 4.6 out of five in peer assessment and ranked 11th in faculty resources and 15th in graduation and retention.
U.S. News has been performing rankings since 1980; its system has been regarded as controversial by some because of the way weights are assigned to particular areas. Although there have been no changes to the ranking model between last year and this year, U.S. news says that it may be “hard to identify the precise cause of the change” due to relative changes in single performance criteria amongst competing schools.
Many students on campus are treating the news of the ranking indifferently. Travis Whitmer ’09, a biological engineering major who recently returned to campus from summer break, said that he cared more about the rankings in his particular department rather than the overall rankings.
“I know, and most of the educated people out there know that Cornell is a great institution,” he said.
Whitmer also expressed some concern with the possibility that Cornell’s admission rate of 24.7 percent for the Class of 2010, which is higher than many other peer institutions, may have hurt the University’s position in the rankings.
“I kind of like the fact that Cornell admits a wider range of people,” he said. “It makes it less boring on campus to have [diverse students] rather than cookie-cutter people.”
Others, like Ian Sholtys ’09, saw the rankings as positive news for Cornell.
“[Those rankings] show over 120 schools, and out of those, we’re in the top ten percent,” he said. “And as far as post-college employment goes, I think the school’s name will only get you so far. No matter what school you’re from, nobody will hire you if you’ve got a terrible personality or work ethic.”
As for ideas as to what Cornell could do to improve its position, students were equally unsure.
“I’m not sure if there’s anything we can do other than to continue to support/fund science, research, the arts, and to try and employ the best of the best who will make major contributions to their fields,” Whitmer said.