Cornell University has been ranked the 17th best university in the country, according to the U.S. News and World Report’s 2020 rankings, falling one slot below the University’s ranking last year.
Each year, U.S. News ranks at least 399 higher education institutions (exclusively liberal arts programs are tallied separately) across the United States, judging the national universities on a wide bevy of metrics — including graduation rate, class size, student-faculty ratio, standardized test scores of admitted students and the “expert opinion” of high school counselors and college administrators.
According to the most recent report, Cornell logged a student-faculty ratio of nine-to-one, median starting salary of over $65,000, an 88 percent of four-year graduation rate and 75th-percentile ACT score of 34 — scores that placed the school within the top echelon of the county, but were not enough to avoid being eclipsed by Notre Dame and Vanderbilt.
Despite the slight slide, Cornell’s spot at 17 is well within its recent historical performance: Since 2012, the highest position the University has reached was 14th, when it tied with Brown University in 2018. In the past eight years of rankings, it has ranked at the bottom of the Ivy League each year save for 2015, when Cornell narrowly edged out its Rhode Island rival.
Princeton and Harvard retained their longtime perch atop the rankings.
Though memes and prominent popular culture, such as The Office, have sometimes lampooned Cornell’s status in the rankings compared to its peers, the University’s drop was met with disinterest from most students — many of whom questioned the utility or accuracy of U.S. News’ report.
“To me, when you’re at the top 10-20 schools, the smallest details separate number 7 from number 8, and so on,” Kara Guse ’19 told The Sun. “So I really don’t care, Cornell has a well-known brand and it will always be like that.”
In addition to student apathy, the report has also drawn the ire of academics and education experts, who have long questioned the magazine’s criteria, and whether it fairly assess education quality — or simply exclusivity and historical perceptions of prestige.
Despite retooling their ranking system last year to de-emphasize measures of selectivity, such as acceptance rates and SAT scores, The Washington Post’s education reporter Valerie Strauss still criticized the revamped U.S. News as suffering from “junk in, junk out.”
“That’s pretty much what you get with most rankings of schools,” Strauss wrote. “The folks doing the ranking decide what is important to them or their audience, and, for some reason, consumers and schools themselves put a great deal of stock in the outcome of ever-changing, questionable methodology.”