GW ranks among top 50 colleges

The University inched up one spot to the coveted No. 50 rank on U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of the nation’s colleges after remaining on the cusp of the common cutoff point for several years.

The University has not been in the top 50 since 1998, when it was ranked 50th.

Robert Morse, the director of data research for U.S. News & World Report, attributed GW’s slight rise to “small changes” in alumni giving and admissions data.

Executive Dean for Undergraduate Admissions Kathryn Napper credits the uptick in the rankings to the boost in student quality over the last year. From 2010 to 2011, SAT scores increased by 25 points, and the portion of students who were in the top 10 percent of their high school class increased by 7 percentage points.

At the same time, the admissions rate has become more selective overall in the last few years. After a dramatic 5-percentage point drop in the acceptance rate from 2009 to 2010, the University accepted slightly more applicants than the previous year, at 32 percent.

Strengthening relationships with high school counselors was another key factor in boosting the admissions profile of the University, Napper said. In the second year of U.S. News & World Report’s new rating by high school guidance counselors, GW came in at No. 32 on the list.

“I think it’s a testament to [the counselors] understanding the excitement their kids get, what these students get out of it, because these students are going back to their counselors and talking about it,” she said. “The kind of rapport that we’ve developed with them in the last number of years is really paying off.”

GW shares the 50th slot with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. and, for the second year in a row, Tulane University in New Orleans. After a two-year plateau at No. 53, GW climbed up two slots in 2010.

Provost Steven Lerman declined to comment in detail on the rankings, opting to release a statement instead.

“Every year, a variety of organizations come out with rankings and surveys. Each is one indicator among many that help parents and prospective students decide which institution is right for them,” Lerman said in a statement Tuesday. “George Washington strives constantly to achieve excellence in all our academic programs and in the educational and cultural experience we provide to all our students.”

After last year’s rankings were released, the University issued a similar statement.

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 by presidents, provosts and admissions deans at other universities.

Robert Chernak, senior vice provost and senior vice president for student and academic support services, said the increase shows the hard work of the University’s administrators has paid off.

“It’s good to be in the top 50,” Chernak said.

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