University moves up to 53 in U.S. News rankings

GW moved up one place to 53rd in the annual U.S. News and World Report ranking of the nation’s top universities, according to a survey released last week by the magazine.

The University has failed to break the top 50 in the U.S. News ranking since it was 46th in 1998 and has consistently placed just outside the top tier in recent years. This year, the school shared the 53rd slot with Syracuse University and the University of Maryland.

“We’re pleased to be ranked 53,” University spokeswoman Tracy Schario said. “It’s always very challenging to move up in the rankings.”

Schario attributed the improvement to recent investments in alumni giving, as well as retention rates and academic quality.

In a new feature for this year’s edition, U.S. News & World Report asked guidance counselors from top public high schools to rank universities. The counselors put GW in 34th place, tied with 11 other national universities.

“To me, that says that our recruiting and admissions work have had an impact,” Schario said.

The magazine also ranked the School of Business as the 39th best undergraduate business school in the country with the 16th best international business program. Last year, the school was ranked 41st and the international business program was ranked 16th, according to a news release.

U.S. News & World Report bases its list on a number of criteria, including selectivity, class size, annual giving and a “reputation survey” that measures how different university presidents view the school.

In contrast, a new survey this month from Forbes Magazine places GW 38th among national universities, based on “the value of the experience of attending (different) colleges,” Forbes.com Executive Editor Michael Noer said.

Forbes bases one-quarter of a school’s ranking on professor evaluations from ratemyprofessors.com and another 25 percent on the percentage of alumni listed in Marquis’ “Who’s Who in America” listings. The other half of the ranking is determined by four-year graduation rates, average student debt at graduation and the percentage of alumni who receive nationally competitive awards.

Using these criteria, Forbes also produced a list of the 569 best colleges in America, with GW ranked at 350th. Small liberal arts colleges did especially well on the overall list, with 10 of them in the top 20. Noer attributes this to smaller classes and professorial attention.

“If you go to Smith or Middlebury, you’re going to get a lot of personal attention whether you want it or not,” he said.

Noer said Forbes had no interest in looking at faculty research or a school’s reputation – two things that play a large role in the U.S. News & World Report rankings.

“We’re happy to highlight schools people might not have looked at,” said Noer, noting that the relatively unknown Centre College and Wabash College placed in the top 20 on the overall list. “The most dispiriting thing is knee-jerk elitism. Some schools have huge reputations, and so people dismiss other schools because they’ve never heard of it.”

Schario called the Forbes rankings “interesting,” and had reservations about their methodology.

“I do question – if you’re looking at ratemyprofessors.com – how equal is that from university to university,” Schario said.

Noer said he hopes the Forbes rankings will be seen as a counterpart to the U.S. News & World Report survey.

“We’re not saying that our rankings are better, but we’re measuring different things,” he said. “U.S. News bases theirs on a set of difference assumptions about the world.”

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