U.S. News & World Report released its 2024 rankings for universities, drawing both criticism and praise due to the new methodology used to evaluate schools.
This year’s rankings remained largely the same at the top, as Princeton led the way in first, followed by MIT in second, and a tie for third between Harvard and Stanford.
The biggest change to this year’s rankings came from public universities, as more than a dozen saw their rankings increase by at least 50 spots compared to last year’s rankings, according to The New York Times.
On the other hand, many private universities dropped in the rankings due to the updated methodology.
The most significant impact resulted from what U.S. News described as “success at enrolling, retaining and graduating students from different backgrounds with manageable debt and post-graduate success,” which now accounts for more than half of a university’s ranking.
Additionally, U.S. News also heavily considered “social mobility,” defined as “how well schools graduated economically disadvantaged students.”
This year’s updated methodology also dropped five factors from previous years. Class size, proportion of a school’s faculty with terminal degrees, alumni giving rate, proportion of graduates borrowing, and high school class standing were all removed.
U.S. News said that some of these factors had “growing logistical issues that made them more challenging than in previous years to continue incorporating into the rankings.”
The new formula used in this year’s rankings has elicited mixed reactions.
Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, said there are problems with the rankings, which is why the methodology needed to be changed.
“It is ludicrous on its face that an individual institution could rise or fall by dozens of spots on a college rankings list in a single year,” he said in a statement, per The Washington Post.
“But the U.S. News rankings released today are yet more evidence that rankings are not and never have been reliable indicators of quality.”
Chancellor Daniel Diermeier and Provost C. Cybele Raver of Vanderbilt University made similar statements, criticizing the rankings in an email to alumni.
“U.S. News’s change in methodology has led to dramatic movement in the rankings overall, disadvantaging many private research universities while privileging large public institutions,” they wrote, per Bloomberg.
Others, such as Colorado College President L. Song Richardson, voiced support for the rankings and formula.
Colorado College previously stated in February that it would no longer submit information to U.S. News to help with the rankings, as reported by the NYT.
Despite her institution dropping two spots among liberal arts colleges, Richardson said the new methodology was “slightly better” than before.
“It doesn’t ease my concerns, which is why we haven’t rejoined,” Richardson said, according to the NYT. “But certainly I’m thrilled that they’re starting to listen to what higher ed leaders have been saying to them.”
Eric Gertler, CEO of U.S. News, defended the changes and said they were necessary since “families have come to count on Best Colleges as a vital resource as they navigate one of the most important decisions of their lives,” reported The Hill.
“The significant changes in this year’s methodology are part of the ongoing evolution to make sure our rankings capture what is most important for students as they compare colleges and select the school that is right for them.”