U.S. News pegs GW at No. 52

GW ranked No. 52 in this year’s U.S. News and World Report annual listing of top universities, marking the eighth year GW has just missed a spot in the top 50.

The report for national universities is based on factors including peer assessment, retention rate, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation rate and alumni giving, according to the magazine.

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said he is not concerned, calling university rankings “nonsense.”

“I look at (the U.S. News and World Report rankings), but I read the back of cereal boxes, too,” Trachtenberg said. The magazine released its rankings in mid-August.

He said there is no major difference between being ranked above or below the top 50. GW cracked the top 50 in 1998 when the University was ranked 46, but has been listed in the 50s since then. Last year GW was pegged at 53.

“Fifty-three is no different than 52, which is no different than 60 which is no different than 45,” Trachtenberg said.

In addition, Trachtenberg said GW has many unique characteristics that other schools cannot offer, like being located centrally in the nation’s capital.

“We have assets that other institutions do not have that don’t get counted into the rankings,” Trachtenberg said.

He warned against placing too much emphasis on university rankings because he said students should evaluate schools based on criteria that are important to the individual student.

“You have to look at what school is going to serve you best,” Trachtenberg said, “GW is the best school in the world for some people.”

Robert Morse, who authored the rankings along with Samuel Flannigan, said ranking universities is a straightforward process.

“First, we divide schools into categories, so we compare schools with similar characteristics; then we select indicators that determine academic quality and compare the schools on those indicators, sort them in descending order and print them in the magazine,” Morse said.

“GW does really well in our rankings,” Morse said. “In terms of the indicators we are measuring they do a good job.”

He said that in order to improve in the rankings, GW could aim to have a better graduation rate. In 2005, GW had a 78 percent graduation rate whereas Princeton University, which is ranked first, had a 97 percent graduation rate.

Morse stressed the minute differences between schools with similar rankings.

“I would caution people,” Morse said. “The top 50 national universities is more symbolic than it is real.”

“What’s the real difference between 52 and 47?” Morse said.

He added that as schools get better rankings it is even more difficult to continue to rise in the rankings year after year.

“The higher you get up the harder it is to crack into another level because of the data being used,” Morse said.

Princeton University is ranked first, Harvard University is second with Yale University ranked third. Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. is 23.

GW’s School of Business improved in the U.S. News and World Report rankings by moving five spots to sit at 42 in the magazine’s annual listing of the top undergraduate business programs in the country.

“The increase in our rank is a testament to our academic vision and our efforts to strengthen the undergraduate program and the whole GW School of Business,” said Susan Phillips, dean of the School of Business, in a press release.

The University of Pennsylvania was ranked as the top business program in the country by the magazine.

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