Alternative U.S. News Rankings 2016

This year’s alternative U.S. News Rankings have a somewhat different take on the rankings. As in the past, we have eliminated all of the “input” measures from the U.S. News Rankings, focusing instead on grad rates, retention rates, class size, and academic reputation.

Doing this eliminates the financial metrics that boost rankings for wealthy universities by assigning value to both wealth and the impact of that wealth (class sizes, for example). This year, we have added a new metric for academic quality: the aggregate department rankings for each of 92 national universities, across 15 academic disciplines. The departmental rankings are for graduate programs, except in the case of undergrad rankings for business and engineering.

The academic disciplines are biological sciences, business (undergrad), chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, economics, education, engineering (undergrad), English, history, math, physics, political science, psychology, and sociology.

Here is the methodology in brief: 11.25 points for departmental rankings; 11.25 points for academic reputation of the whole university; 18 points for six-year grad rate; 6 points of the percentage of classes with fewer than 20 students; 4.5 points for freshmen retention rates; and 2 points for the percentage of class sizes with more than 50 students.

These mirror the U.S. News metrics: 22.5 for academic reputation (not counting departmental rankings); 18 points for six-year grad rate; 6 for classes <20, 4.5 for freshmen retention rate; and 2 points for classes >50 students. The remaining points for U.S. News are derived from input metrics: selectivity, test scores, alumni giving, faculty resources, etc.

One might argue that test scores are useful–and that is correct. Knowing the range of test scores is very important. But using those as a metric or using the percentage of students accepted as a metric (also useful) nevertheless skews the rankings by using inputs. The results, or output of all this selectivity is a high grad rate, which is and should be a metric.

The only universities listed below are those with an aggregate department ranking better than 90. To qualify, a university had to have at least 8 academic departments that were ranked nationally. Most had 12-15 such departments, but a few excellent schools (Caltech, Georgia Tech, Dartmouth) had 8-9. Schools were not penalized for having fewer than 15 rated departments, thus allowing their specialization, where applicable, to work for them and not against them.

On the other hand, a few recognized universities (Wake Forest, William and Mary, Lehigh, American, etc.) are not listed because they did not have at least 8 rated departments.

For prospective honors students, this list should be useful because they are more likely to be interested in research (which the departmental rankings chiefly reflect) and are also more likely to double major, thereby having a keener interest in seeing a broad range of recognized academic departments.

Below is the table for the alternative U.S. News Rankings in 2016. At some point, we will post more specific data about some of the metrics. For now, you might want to see our posts Rankings, Public University Academic Departments Updated and Rankings, Academic Departments: Private Elites vs Publics.

UniversityAlt ScoreAlt RankU.S. NewsAlt Gain/Loss 
Maximum Score53
Harvard51.34121
Stanford51.19242
Princeton50.6831-2
Columbia50.45440
Yale50.3843-1
Chicago48.7564-2
MIT48.74770
Caltech47.938102
Johns Hopkins47.319101
Duke47.09108-2
UC Berkeley47.06102010
Penn47.04129-3
Northwestern46.9612120
Brown46.0114140
Cornell45.315150
Michigan44.68162913
Wash U43.51715-2
Vanderbilt43.221815-3
UCLA42.9519234
Rice42.932018-2
Virginia43.221265
Carnegie Mellon42.122231
Dartmouth41.82312-11
Notre Dame40.432418-6
Emory40.362421-3
USC40.062623-3
Wisconsin40.03274114
North Carolina40.0327303
Georgetown39.492921-8
NYU37.9930322
Illinois37.58314110
Tufts37.063227-5
UC Irvine37.0632397
UT Austin36.77345218
Boston College36.583530-5
Maryland36.52365721
Florida36.13374710
Georgia Tech36.123736-1
Washington35.96395213
Brandeis35.924034-6
Penn State35.7341476
UC Davis35.624241-1
Rochester35.614233-9
UCSD35.544439-5
UCSB35.264537-8
Boston Univ34.564641-5
Ohio State34.2947525
Minnesota33.73486921
Indiana32.03497526
Case Western31.885037-13
Pitt31.54516615
Georgia31.49516110
Northeastern31.265347-6
Syracuse30.7954617
Rutgers New Bruns30.71557217
Purdue30.4656615
Tulane30.255741-16
RPI29.915841-17
Texas A&M29.36597011
Virginia Tech29.22607010
Michigan State29.1617514
Geo Washington29.16157-4
Connecticut29.046357-6
U of Miami28.96451-13
Colorado28.73658924
Massachusetts28.4266759
Iowa28.3678215
Stony Brook SUNY26.98688921
Delaware2669756
BYU26.587066-4
Florida St26.58709625
NC State26.19728917
Oregon25.567310330
Arizona23.927412147
Utah23.617511540
Arizona State23.597512954
Missouri22.467710326
U at Buffalo SUNY22.23789921
Nebraska22.027810325
South Carolina21.987810830
Auburn21.518110221
Iowa St21.58110827
Temple21.348311532
Kansas21.338311532
Tennessee20.918510318
Oklahoma20.528610822
Illinois Chicago19.078712942
Colorado St198812739
Washington St18.218914051
LSU18.129012939
Oregon St16.829113544
Kentucky15.989212937

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