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.
|University||Alt Score||Alt Rank||U.S. News||Alt Gain/Loss|
|Rutgers New Bruns||30.71||55||72||17|
|U of Miami||28.9||64||51||-13|
|Stony Brook SUNY||26.98||68||89||21|
|U at Buffalo SUNY||22.23||78||99||21|