UConn named top-20 public university by U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News & World Report has ranked UConn as the No. 19 public university in the country for the fourth time in five years. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

U.S. News & World Report has ranked UConn as the No. 19 public university in the country for the fourth time in five years.

Among national universities, UConn was ranked No. 57 out of all higher education institutions. The study ranked the University of California at Berkeley as the top public university in the country.

UConn’s position as a top-25 public university remains solidified, as the school has been on this short list for the past five years.

This was not always the case. UConn has seen massive improvements since the 1990s to reach being considered a top-20 public university. UConn was ranked No. 38 on the same report in 2000.

President Susan Herbst touted the rankings in a university news release last week.

“We’re delighted to be where we are, which is among the best public universities in the nation,” Herbst said. “Schools can rise or fall a few spots in rankings for any number of reasons, but U.S. News is one measure that confirms what students and families already know: that UConn is a great university committed to academic quality, excellent faculty, and student success.”

Neve Flynn, a first-semester ACES major, celebrated UConn’s ranking. 

“UConn is a school that is dedicated to its students both in the value of their education and in the value of their well-being,” Flynn said. “Part of the reason that I chose to attend UConn was that I had never heard of any of my peers not loving UConn. These rankings don’t change the way I feel about UConn, if anything they reinforce the way I already felt.”

The U.S. News & World Report magazine uses 16 elements to determine the rankings. These include retention, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation rate, school reputation and alumni giving rate. School reputation is known as “assessment by administrators at peer institutions.”

“The U.S. News Ranking formula gives significant weight to the opinions of those in a position to judge a school’s undergraduate academic excellence," the report said.

The rankings give much attention to this criterion, in fact, that it shares the highest weighting of factors with retention at 22.5 percent.

U.S. News considers students “who return to campus for sophomore year and eventually graduate” an important aspect of the ratings. 

Faculty resources come in at a 20 percent weighting for the report. This deals with such components as student-to-professor ratio and quality of professors. 

Student selectivity, which holds a 12.5 percent weighting in determining the rankings, mostly means standardized test scores for enrolled students. It also includes how many students were in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating classes and the university’s acceptance rate. 

Financial resources are weighted at 10 percent when deciding the rankings. This is in reference to per-student spending on “instruction, research, student services, and related educational expenditures.”

The graduation rate of the school is weighted at 7.5 percent – the higher the graduation rate the better the ranking.  Alumni giving rate is weighted at 5 percent.

“(Alumni giving) reflects the average percentage of living alumni with bachelor's degrees who gave to their school during 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, which is an indirect measure of student satisfaction,” U.S. News said on its website.

These factors and more guided this year’s rankings. Questions still remain, though, about whether the rankings are accurate or even matter.

U.S. News director of data research Robert Morse raised concerns in 2009 about how universities invest their resources to potentially inflate their rankings.
 
“Some schools or college presidents or boards have used wanting to improve in the rankings as an administrative goal,” Morse said. “Some schools are targeting their academic policies toward improving in the rankings.” 

Critics of the annual rankings usually question the methodology and tangible impact of the report. Carl Costa, a fifth-semester political science major, is skeptical of the rankings. 

“While obviously as a student here I welcome the prestige that higher rankings bring, we shouldn’t get too ahead of ourselves,” Costa said. “These rankings are often sought by the administration almost single-mindedly, and can come at the expense of certain programs like humanities and the arts, as well as tuition increases that can make the already lofty UConn degree even more unattainable.”


Sten Spinella is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at sten.spinella@uconn.edu. He tweets @SSpinella927.