GW fell out of the top 50 universities, according to the annual U.S. News & World Report college rankings, which appears on newsstands Monday.
Each year U.S. News ranks universities to determine which universities or colleges are offering students the most for their money. Last year GW came in at number 50, but this year GW ranked in the second tier of universities. The magazine does not publish ranking numbers for the second tier but makes the rankings available to the universities and colleges on request.
GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said he questions the validity of U.S. News rankings.
“What are we to make of U.S. News & World Report?” Trachtenberg said. “You can only be suspicious that the reason (U.S. News) changes the criteria each year is so they have an excuse to sell magazines. They have an incentive to change the criteria from year to year.”
U.S. News changed the way it ranked universities this year, magazine spokeswoman Emily Atcock said. She said the new methodology takes into account larger statistical spreads between universities. Essentially, the methodology is a more weighted statistic, she said.
Bob Morse, deputy director of data research for U.S. News, said GW’s rankings in the individual criteria did not change substantially from last year. He said three schools, which were not ranked in the top 50 last year, moved up to the top 50, including the universities of Florida, Texas at Austin and Washington. Morse said the rise of those schools may have contributed to GW’s drop. But he said GW’s biggest decrease was in the individual category “Faculty Resources,” which includes faculty salary, class size, student-teacher ratios and percentage of faculty that is full-time, among others.
But Trachtenberg said U.S. News‘ analysis of GW’s faculty resources is inaccurate. Trachtenberg said GW has a top-tier library, which was named to the Association of Research Libraries last October, and the U.S. News ranking does not measure the amount of investment in construction on GW’s campus.
“The most recent data indicates that our faculty’s salaries are the highest in (D.C.),” he said.
For the first time in U.S. News ranking’s history, a science and technology school pulled in the top ranking. Atcock said the California Institute of Technology, while not for everyone, has extremely high standards. Last year, this training ground for future engineers and scientists took ninth place on U.S. News list. This year the top-ranked university spent about $192,000 per student, according to the U.S. News Web site.
“(The California Institute of Technology) is an amazing school,” Atcock said. “If you look at their scores, they are heads and shoulders above (the other universities).”
For the University he leads, Trachtenberg said he would have no part in taking the rankings seriously and said they have “worn out their welcome.”
“(The rankings) are helpful in a broad way if you don’t know anything about higher education,” he said.
U.S. News employees said they believe they can analyze universities quantitatively. According to the U.S. News web site, college administrators believe universities cannot be analyzed by mere numbers, but universities “measure their applicants by test scores and class standing.”
Applications to GW have been consistently rising, undergraduate alumni giving is up, and the quality of students at GW has increased “by any yard-stick” one could use, Trachtenberg said.
“Our goal is to relentlessly make GW better in any way we know how,” Trachtenberg said.