U.S. News & World Report publishes its annual ranking

Lisa Lapin
Lisa Lapin

U.S. News & World Report published its annual ranking of colleges and universities today. Nothing much has changed. Stanford, which has ranked between first and sixth since the ranking debuted in the 1980s, ranks fifth this year, tied with Penn. The top four are Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Columbia.

Last year, Stanford tied for fourth with Caltech, MIT and Penn. In fact, Stanford had tied for fourth since 2007.

This year, the publication credited Stanford with excelling in several areas, including the first-year experience, senior capstone projects, study abroad programs, writing in the disciplines, economic diversity, a commitment to undergraduates, seeking diversity and being a good value. The publication also surveyed high school counselors about their opinions of colleges and universities. In that part of the survey, Stanford ranked first, tied with Harvard, MIT, Princeton and Yale.

At the same time, Jiaotong University’s Centre for World-Class Universities in Shanghai has published its ranking of the best universities worldwide. In that survey, Harvard is first, UC Berkeley second and Stanford third.

Stanford has a practice of not publicizing rankings—regardless of publication or organization, said LISA LAPIN, assistant vice president for university communications. That was true even when U.S. News ranked the university first. This year will be no different.

“Universities change slowly,” said Lapin. “Clearly, attributes do not change much on an annual basis, even though the rankings are published frequently. We encourage prospective students to evaluate campus attributes themselves and determine whether a university is the best fit for them, rather than rely solely upon publication rankings. We don’t need to give rankings further publicity.”

Lapin says Stanford also is aware that ranking methodology varies widely from publication to publication. The U.S. News methodology purports to factor in everything from graduation rates to alumni giving to financial resources. Former President Gerhard Casper in particular was an outspoken critic of U.S. News & World Report and of the general concept of ranking colleges and universities as one might rank consumer goods.

Nevertheless, Stanford commits considerable time to answering the 600-question U.S. News survey, especially through the offices of University Communications, Institutional Research and Undergraduate Admission.

“Stanford answers U.S. News and just about every survey that we are sent because we want to be of service to prospective students and their families—that is, to provide data that, when evaluated carefully, may help them make informed choices,” Lapin said. “U.S. News and many other publications offer some selected statistics—class size, student-faculty ratio—that can be useful. Then prospective students can determine what is most important to them.”