GW ranks 51st in U.S. News & World Report

GW broke through a two-year plateau in the U.S. News & World Report college rankings, moving up two slots to take the No. 51 spot.

The University ranked 53rd two years in a row in both 2009 and 2010, and has not been in the top 50 since 1998, when it was ranked 50th. GW shares the 51st slot with Tulane University in New Orleans.

GW released only one statement after the rankings were released.

“Every year, different organizations come out with rankings and surveys. They are one indicator among many that help parents and prospective students decide which institution is right for them. George Washington continually strives to improve academic excellence and the [U]niversity experience for all our students and will continue to do so. In a city shaping the future, students at GW not only study the world but acquire the skills they need to change it,” the University said in a statement.

Provost Steven Lerman declined to comment further on the rankings, including whether he believed the 51st spot was an accurate reflection of the University, whether the administration would use the ranking as any kind of guide for improvements to be made to the University or whether he anticipated the rankings bump to lead to more prospective student interest in GW.

“The [U]niversity has decided that we’ll make a single announcement about the this year’s rankings,” Lerman said before the rankings went public. “This will be the only comment that the senior administration plans to make.”

After last year’s rankings were released, members of the University administration sought to minimize the report.

“The U.S. News rankings are taken as one among a number of measures as to how we are doing in improving GW academically and otherwise,” former Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman wrote in an e-mail last year.

Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, told The Hatchet there had not been any correlation between GW’s ranking and the number of students applying for admission, adding that both the size and quality of the freshman class had increased.

University President Emeritus Stephen Joel Trachtenberg has traditionally played down the rankings’ importance, charging U.S. News & World Report with publishing the same data every year.

“Harvard, Yale and Princeton have been ranked 1-2-3 since before I was born,” Trachtenberg said last year. “The first 50 have pretty much been constant for the last 20 years.”

Though Trachtenberg downplayed the rankings in 2009, an article in the Washington City Paper in 2007 revealed that Trachtenberg lobbied U.S. News & World Report to rank universities past the top 50.

“The idea that they didn’t care about the rankings – they might not care to actually publicize it, but they cared enough to encourage us to do the rankings the way we are printing them now,” said Bob Morse, the director of data and research at U.S. News & World Report, in reference to the magazine publishing rankings past the top 50 schools.

Senior Carl Fisher said the ratings don’t matter to him.

“The statistical difference between a 53rd ranked school and a 51st ranked school is pretty insignificant,” Fisher said.

Sophomore Kaitlyn Kerr disagreed.

“I think it does mean something for the school even if it’s only two places,” Kerr said. “The only way to move is forward.”

U.S. News & World Report bases its rankings on a variety of criteria, including selectivity, class size, student-faculty ratio, freshman retention, alumni giving rate and “peer assessments” from presidents, provosts and admissions deans from other universities. This year, rankings also factored in high school counselors’ opinions and weighted graduation rates more heavily.

The University dropped down one spot in a separate list of high school counselor rankings of universities.

Although GW still received a score of 4.2 out of 5, it is now ranked No. 35, alongside Boston University, Colorado School of Mines, Purdue University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of California, Davis, and University of Texas, Austin. u

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