Cornell has been named the 18th best university in the country, according to the U.S. News and World Report’s 2021 rankings released Monday morning, falling one spot below the University’s ranking last year.
The college handicapper’s verdict marked the third consecutive year of bad news for Cornell, which has largely stagnated or declined on the annual rankings. Last year, the University fell from the 16th to 17th spot, and in the prior year it dropped from 14th to 16th.
Each year, U.S. News ranks hundreds of higher education institutions across the United States, judging universities on a wide array of metrics, including graduation rate, class size, student-faculty ratio, selectivity and resources for faculty. More recently, the list has placed greater emphasis on “social mobility,” measured through the graduation rate of Pell Grant recipients, and the amount of debt that students graduate with.
Historically, acceptance rate has also been a relatively significant factor in the rankings; however, due to COVID-19, the statistic was not weighted in the 2021 edition.
This decision likely slightly hurts Cornell, which announced in late August that its most recent acceptance rate fell from 10.9 to 10.7 percent — bucking the trend of other Ivies, many of which reported slightly higher acceptance rates for their incoming classes.
According to the most recent report, Cornell recorded a student-faculty ratio of 9-to-1, a median starting salary of over $66,900, an 87 percent of four-year graduation rate and a 75th-percentile ACT score of 35 — scores that placed the school within the top tier of the nation’s colleges, but were not enough to avoid being overtaken by Rice University and Washington University at St. Louis.
Cornell’s 18th ranking marks its worst performance on the list in at least the past 12 years. Over that time period, the highest position the University reached was 12th, when it edged out Brown University in 2008. Cornell has ranked at the bottom of the Ivy League since 2015.
The University did not comment by time of publication.
While the report’s methodology has been repeatedly criticized as failing to accurately capture the true quality of higher education institutions, its cultural cachet and notoriety still give its annual judgement outsized influence. Applicants routinely look to the list as a marker of prestige, while college administrators and alumni donors often use it as a benchmark for college progress.