U.S. Has 24 of Top 50 Engineering and Tech Universities in the World

According to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the U.S. is home to 24 of the top 50 engineering and technology universities in the world.

It is also notable that 13 of the 24 U.S. institutions are public universities.  The United States also has the top four schools on the Times list.

“The 2012-2013 Times Higher Education World University Rankings’ Engineering and Technology table judges world class universities across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. The ranking of the world’s top 50 universities for engineering and technology employs 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available, which are trusted by students, academics, university leaders, industry and governments.”

Here are the U.S. universities on the list, along with their rank:

1. Caltech

2. Princeton

3. MIT

4. UC Berkeley

5. Stanford


9. Georgia Tech

13. UT Austin

15. Carnegie Mellon

16. Northwestern

17. UC Santa Barbara

18. Cornell

19. Michigan

20. Illinois

21. Columbia

26. Penn

30. Rice

34. Washington

36. UC San Diego

41. Wisconsin

42. Purdue

45. Minnesota

48. UC Davis

49. Duke


New Washington Monthly Rankings: A Strong Resource for Families Earning $75,000 or Less

The new Washington Monthly rankings, like those in previous years, measure the “contribution to the social good” of universities–but this year’s rankings also include a “Best Bang for the Buck” list that ranks institutions according to their net cost to families with incomes of $75,000 or less.

The best bang measure also reflects the best deals for a family’s first time, full time college students.  The magazine may have added the measure in anticipation of President Obama’s higher ed policy announcements, which propose rewarding institutions that perform best in graduating lower income students who receive federal loans, without incurring high default rates.

Washington Monthly has for some time taken a dim view of the U.S. News rankings, and in the recent issue alleges that the U.S. News list is based on “crude and and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity, and prestige.”  In our view, the U.S. News rankings are useful in some ways, but we strongly agree that they over-emphasize the financial resources of the universities they evaluate, with the result that public institutions are generally underrated.

Below are the top 50 national universities that yield the best bang for low- and middle-income families, according to Washington Monthly.  In parentheses, we will also list a university’s overall ranking by the magazine in the national universities category.  The overall ranking considers the percentage of Pell grant recipients; the graduation rate; the graduation rate in relation to the predicted rate given the number of low-income students; and the loan default rate, which must be no more than 10 percent.

A school’s overall ranking also reflects the dollars brought in by research, B.A. to Ph.D. progression; science and engineering Ph.D.s granted; faculty honors; ROTC and Peace Corps participation; community service requirements; and use of federal work-study funds.  Thus a school’s overall ranking could be enhanced by its academic and research achievements, but also by high ratings in the other areas.

Please note that only the top 284 schools out of more than 1,500 reviewed have a published overall ranking; therefore, some of the schools below will not have a ranking in parentheses.

1. Florida (24)

2. Georgia (60)

3. North Carolina (14)

4. North Carolina State (38)

5. Texas A&M (3)

6. San Diego State (192)

7. Arizona State (49)

8. Indiana (127)

9. Washington (13)

10. Florida State (70)

11. East Carolina (171)

12. Central Florida (211)

13. Utah State (44)

14. Vermont (167)

15. UC Riverside

16. UC Berkeley (5)

17. Oklahoma State (142)

18. Minnesota (56)

19. UC Irvine (84)

20. Arizona (66)

21. UCLA (10)

22. UCSD (1)

23. Michigan State (30)

24. Utah (103)

25. UC Davis (23)

26. Purdue (33)

27. UC Santa Barbara (27)

28. Iowa State (96)

29. Michigan Tech (64)

30. Rutgers at Newark (150)

31. UC Santa Cruz (65)

32. UT Austin (18)

33. SUNY Albany (110)

34. Nebraska (113)

35. Binghamton (174)

36. SUNY Buffalo (204)

37. Illinois (19)

38. Nevada Reno (175)

39. Rhode Island (240)

40. South Dakota State (207)

41. Oregon (128)

42. Washington State (145)

43. Oklahoma (165)

44. Missouri Science and Tech (59)

45. Kansas (75)

46. Western Michigan (123)

47. Illinois State (248)

48. La Verne

49. Oregon State (108)

50. Bowling Green (157)

Please see the Washington Monthly site for the full list of big bang for the bucks universities.




UT Austin and Online Learning: Faculty Should Own Copyrights for Content They Create

The president of the University of Texas at Austin has developed five guiding principles for blended and online education, two of which bear directly on the critical question about the nature and extent of faculty ownership of the curriculum and faculty rewards for contributing to online learning.

The concerns of faculty are that online learning might have an adverse impact on the residential college experience, thereby affecting employment prospects, and that faculty involvement in developing content for online learning might not serve career aspirations as well as, say, book authorship, patents, or the publication of articles.

“Virtually all innovations in society are made by those doing the daily work,” said UT Austin President Bill Powers. “Put another way, they can be supported from the top, but they are developed from the bottom up. In our case, that means by the faculty. Our incentive structures need to encourage faculty innovation in this area. Just as faculty members who write textbooks or create devices benefit from their work, we should ensure that faculty who create online content can benefit, as well as their departments, colleges, and the University. Even when the University sponsors the creation of these resources, our general position should be that faculty own the copyrights for the content they create and grant licenses to the University to use and adapt their content, consistent with Regents’ Rules and the law.”

Powers endorses faculty and academic departmental control of the curriculum.  “Our faculty and academic units are responsible for ensuring that online resources, courses, certificates, and degrees reflect the content and rigor appropriate for a leading national university. Without compromising our deep commitment to the academic freedom of a world-class faculty, we should recognize that these technologies amplify the visibility and impact of individual faculty and staff as representatives of the University on a global scale. Our online curriculum should mirror the rigor of our traditional curriculum, and our online courses should feature the same high-caliber faculty.”

The other guiding principles include implementing online learning in a way that is financially sustainable; sharing content with university partners; and continuing to be innovative amid the rapid changes affecting pedagogy.





Michigan Honors Alum, Now a Ph.D. Astrophysicist–Favorite Course Was Great Books

Editor’s Note:  This post is excerpted from a story by Jacquelyn Turkovich for the University of Michigan:

Ryan Anderson (BS with Distinction, Astronomy & Astrophysics with Honors, and General Physics, 2006) was working on his senior honors thesis, he felt he was in over his head….“But it was still a good experience.  I got my first taste of what it’s like to be involved on a proposed spacecraft instrument, and some of the pattern recognition stuff that I studied for the project has come in handy in my work on data processing for ChemCam.”  The results of his undergraduate research may not have been used for much, but his work since then has been useful both on earth and on Mars.

Anderson’s undergraduate career prepared him for further study in Planetary Science at Cornell University, where he earned and a Ph.D. in 2011. There, Anderson worked with Jim Bell, the lead scientist for the color cameras on the Mars exploration rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on Mars in 2003.  His thesis work at Cornell included geologic and thermophysical unit mapping of Gale crater, which was ultimately chosen as the landing site for the Mars rover, Curiosity.  “Gale crater is interesting for a few reasons. First, it’s a very deep hole in the ground, so that makes it a good candidate for a past lake,” explains Anderson.  “We can also see from orbit that it has at least two distinct kinds of water-related minerals: clays and sulfates, and the transition from environments that form clays to those that form sulfates is very interesting. But the main attraction at Gale is the 5.5 kilometer (about 18,000 foot) tall mountain of layered rocks in the middle of the crater called Aeolis Mons or ‘Mt. Sharp’. For geologists, layers in rocks are like the pages in a history book about the planet. Each layer represents a different environment that we can learn about, and by climbing up the lower part of Mt. Sharp, we get to study how the habitability of the environment on early Mars changed over time.”  More information about Curiosity and Gale crater can be found at mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/.

After earning his PhD, Anderson was offered the Shoemaker Postdoctoral Fellowship at the U.S. Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, AZ.  The Shoemaker Fellowship is funded through NASA Planetary Geology and Geophysics and is a two-year rotational position.  Anderson is a member of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) ChemCam team, under his advisor, Ken Herkenhoff.  He explains, “For my thesis work [at Cornell], I also did a lot of work on methods for analyzing Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy data.  The gist of the method is that you zap a rock with a laser and use the spectrum of the resulting spark to tell what the rock is made of.  The ChemCam instrument on Curiosity uses this technique.”  Since Curiosity landed on Mars in August 2012, Anderson has been involved in rover operations and continued to work on analyzing data from ChemCam.  He feels “unbelievably lucky” that he was able to join the MSL science team and loves being a part of the “excitement of the mission.”  Anderson hopes to earn a permanent position, ideally at USGS in Flagstaff, so that he can continue working on the MSL mission.  And it’s not just for the perks, though there are certainly some of those!

One fringe benefit of participating on a mission team is travel opportunities.  “Meetings and conferences are not that exciting — I’ve visited Houston and Pasadena more times than I can count — but I have had the chance to go on geology field trips to fun locations, including Hawaii, Moab, Glacier National Park, and Timmins, Ontario (location of one of the world’s deepest copper mines).  Also, the ChemCam team is half French, so sometimes I have to go to France.”  Anderson is also interested in teaching, public speaking, and blogging — which he pursues alongside his research and MSL work.  “I study Mars and shoot things with lasers.  I also read and blog and write,” says Anderson’s Twitter profile.

While Anderson’s blogging career began in 2007 with Inescapable Perspective, he “really began blogging in earnest” in 2008 with The Martian Chronicles, a planetary-science themed blog, which began as an assignment for a science communications class at Cornell….As his career progressed, it became more complicated for Anderson to blog about the space program and the MSL mission, so in July 2013, he officially ended The Martian Chronicles

Blogging is still something that Anderson enjoys, so he now maintains a personal blog at www.ryanbanderson.com.  There, he plans to post about a variety of topics, which includes science topics, but also personal posts, book reviews, and anything else he wants to write about just for fun.  In addition to maintaining his own blogs, Anderson also contributes to Thwacke!, which provides science consulting for video game developers, and Science in my Fiction, which explores ideas for incorporating better science in speculative fiction.  For some, science and writing seem to be completely different worlds, but Anderson has always been interested in both.

As an undergraduate, Anderson considered double-majoring in English and Astronomy before settling on Physics and Astronomy.  It’s not much of a surprise, then, that his favorite course was in the humanities.  “Even though I’m a science person, my favorite Honors course was Great Books.  The reading load was a lot at the time, but the profs were some of the best I’ve had (and, at this point, I’ve had a lot!),” Anderson shares.  “And it’s good to have read so many classics.”  Reflecting on his undergraduate classes also had Anderson thinking about his involvement on campus as an Honors student.

In addition to being in the Honors Program, Anderson was vice president and then president of the Student Astronomical Society, as well as a member of the Society of Physics Students (SPS).  “I met my wife in SPS, so I definitely encourage Honors students to be involved in clubs!”  And even though they are scattered throughout the country, Anderson is still friends with a core group of guys he met in Honors Housing his first year on campus.  He’s happy that weddings have served as excuses for them to get together in the past few years.  Just as we, here at the Honors Program, are happy to have been able to catch up with Dr. Anderson!  If only he could figure out how to get an Honors t-shirt to Mars!

UT Dallas McDermott Scholars: An Exciting Free Ride for Four Years

Editor’s Note: The following post is from UT Dallas…

The UT Dallas McDermott Scholars Program has selected 21 students to make up the 2013 incoming class.

The entering cohort was chosen from nearly 1,200 high school students in 30 states and five countries who had initially expressed interest in the program. Fifty-eight applicants were invited to the annual selection weekend, from which the final 21 students were chosen.

The incoming class of 2013 will include eight students from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Ten others are from out of state, and one is from Romania. Collectively, this group has an average two-part SAT score of 1520. Eighteen of the 21 have received recognition from the National Merit Scholar program, five were high school valedictorians, and two were Presidential Scholar nominees.

“UT Dallas and the McDermott Scholars Program have again proved their ability to attract some of the nation’s best and brightest students,” said Molly Seeligson, director of the McDermott Program. “I am so pleased that our institution and program will have the opportunity to benefit from the contributions of these remarkable young people while we help them to realize their potential.”

As McDermott Scholars, the students will have educational expenses covered for the next four years and will participate in a wide variety of cultural and educational enrichment experiences in the Dallas area and beyond.

The McDermott Scholars Program is carefully designed to incorporate various aspects of experiential learning:

Freshman year includes an orientation trip to Santa Fe, N.M., weekly leadership development seminars and a trip to Washington, D.C., for an immersion in government operations.

During their sophomore year, scholars take leading roles on campus, and experience state and local government during a trip to the Capitol in Austin.

Junior year is focused on study abroad and/or internships.

Senior year centers on final preparations for the next phase of scholars’ lives and includes traditions such as a class retreat, capstone service projects and the passing of the McDermott Scholars Program torch in the “Lighting the Legacy” ceremony.

The arrival of this year’s class will mark the program’s 13th class. The incoming group will join the 62 scholars already in attendance at UT Dallas. The program has 142 alumni.

The McDermott Scholars Program was made possible by a $32 million gift from Margaret McDermott, wife of the late Eugene McDermott, one of the co-founders of Texas Instruments (TI). McDermott and two TI co-founders, Cecil Green and Erik Jonsson, founded the research institution that in 1969 became UT Dallas.

For more information on the McDermott Scholars Program or the application process, visit the Eugene McDermott Scholars Program website.

Macaulay Honors Grad: Off to Brown University to Study Public Policy

Editor’s Note: The following article by Terry Mares comes from the College of Staten Island

Kanika Khanna ’13, a graduate of the College of Staten Island and the Macaulay Honors College, has always had a passion for public service. Now she’s ready to take the next step as a graduate student at Brown University, pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Policy.

She credits her positive undergraduate experience at CSI for laying the groundwork for her success. “As a Political Science major at CSI, I was fortunate to have such wonderful professors, who only want the best for their students. There were so many opportunities to get involved on campus, be it academically like undergraduate research, or in an extracurricular club or publication.”

Kanika is working this summer for the CUNY Interdisciplinary High-Performance Computing Center (HPCC), conducting Hurricane Sandy research with the support of Vice President for Information Technology and Economic Development, and Executive Director of the HPCC Dr. Michael Kress. This follows several years as a political science research assistant focusing on public opinion as it relates to the New York City mayoralty. In both cases, she has been mentored by Professor Richard Flanagan of CSI’s Department of Political Science.

She was the founder and editor-in-chief of The Macaulay Messenger online newspaper, a publication that represented the eight Macaulay schools within CUNY, and won recognition as a National Collegiate Honors Council Newsletter Contest Winner. Kanika also served in a number of functions for Macaulay, including Junior Mentor, Volunteer English and Seminar Tutor, and Student Ambassador. She also received the Laura Schwartz Memorial Award for Excellence in Political Science and the Macaulay Eportfolio Expo Judge’s Choice Award, and was a Lisa Goldberg/Revson Scholar and a member of the Pi Sigma Alpha political science honors society.

Kanika’s foray into public service began when she landed a grant-writing internship with A. Larovere Consulting, a firm that builds supportive housing for the homeless in New York. “I was able to learn about urban issues as they affect our city’s most vulnerable populations and recommend services that would keep them off the streets. There is no better feeling than giving a disabled veteran an accommodating home, or connecting a mentally ill person with the medical care they need.”

Her experience in public service led to a summer opportunity with the Harvard Kennedy Center, Latino Leadership Initiative where she received intensive training in community organizing, leadership, negotiating, and public speaking. Kanika returned to New York City and joined with her fellow cohort at CUNY to establish the John Jay Sophomore Leadership Program, which aims to improve college success rates for first-generation college students. Kanika is currently on the Board of Directors and serves as the Media Outreach Manager for this program.

Kanika’s future plans include working on alleviating problems that plague metropolitan cities, like poverty, homelessness, and access to education.

“As a CSI and Macaulay student, I’ve had countless opportunities and supportive mentors to help me reach my goals. Public service is about improving the lives of others, who may not be able to do so themselves. The challenge of public service is daunting, but the prospect of serving my community and country is worth it.”

Princeton Review 2013 Best Public Values: UVA, UNC Chapel Hill

The 2013 Princeton Review “Best Value” Public Universities list has changed somewhat from the previous edition, with the University of Virginia taking over the number one spot from UNC Chapel Hill, which is now ranked number 2.

Below are the best values from the 2014 edition, along with a side by side list showing the schools in the same slots in 2013.  Changes in best value lists can be more meaningful than some other ranking changes because the best value lists are based on tuition, loan, net cost, and other financial metrics.  The Princeton Review best value rankings are unique, however, in that they also consider student views of how interesting and accessible professors are.

2014 (1) Virginia; 2013 (1) UNC Chapel Hill

2014 (2) UNC Chapel Hill; 2013 (2) Virginia

2014 (3) New College of Florida; 2013 (3) New College of Florida

2014 (4) William & Mary; 2013 (4) Binghamton

2014 (5) UCLA; 2013 (5) Wisconsin

2014 (6) NC State; 2013 (6) William & Mary

2014 (7) Wisconsin; 2013 (7) Florida

2014 (8) Binghamton; 2013 (8) Georgia

2014 (9) Michigan; 2013 (9) Washington

2014 (10) Georgia; 2013 (10) UT Austin

The Review lists an additional 65 public universities, in alphabetical order, that are also best values, but does not rank them within that group. Below are the universities that we follow that are on this second list:

Arkansas, Central Florida, Clemson, College of Charleston, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Houston, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, LSU, Maryland, Massachusetts Amherst, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Pitt, Purdue, South Carolina, Stony Brook, SUNY Buffalo, Tennessee, Texas A&M, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, UT Austin, Virginia Tech, Washington, and Washington State.


Top Texas High Schools End Class Ranking to Avoid ‘Ten Percent Rule’

Editor’s note: This post is based on an article in the Austin American Statesman, by reporter Benjamin Wermund.

To get around some of the effects of the “top ten percent” rule in Texas, which requires public colleges to admit applicants who graduate in the top tenth of their high school classes, some leading Texas high schools no longer rank most students as part of a strategy to improve the chances of their highly-prepared graduates to gain entrance to UT Austin and Texas A&M.

How does this work?  Well, if students with very high gpa’s and test scores don’t make the top ten percent at intensely competitive high schools, not being ranked at all appears to net a more individual assessment that yields higher admission rates.

The Eanes district, including students from the affluent Austin suburb of Westlake, was the first to try the strategy.  The district did not rank 90 percent of its graduates, and saw its acceptance rate at UT Austin improve by 39 percent and the rate at Texas A&M improve by 49 percent.

To graduate in the top ten percent at Westlake High School, a student must have straight A’s along with multiple advanced placement classes.   Graduating in the top ten percent at a low-performing high school could be achieved with, say, a 3.5 gpa, no AP classes, and low test scores.

(UT Austin this year admitted students from among the top 7 percent of high school grads, not the top 10 percent, under rules that allow the university to adjust the percentage based on projected space in the class.)

So far, at least three other competitive districts in the Austin area have decided to stop ranking all of their students.

Other districts are waiting to see the full effects of the strategy.  Admissions officials claim that they can “ballpark” the percentage but that this process takes longer and could actually result in delays for applicants.

Because the estimation process may eventually reduce the current advantage that some high-performing students receive from not being ranked, the Leander district northwest of Austin leaves the choice of ranking in the hands of students and parents.

The Austin ISD, on the other hand, leaves the choice to individual campuses.  The very competitive Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy and the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders are the only campuses that have stopped ranking most students.


These Are the Public Universities with the ‘Most Beautiful Campuses’

According to one college website, a list of the 50 most beautiful campuses in the nation includes 15 public university campuses.    Below are the 15 universities that made the list, along with a few words that describe them.

8–William & Mary: “…over 1,200 acres of cozy wooded areas…Most buildings on campus consist of Georgian and Anglo-Dutch architecture…” and nearby is Colonial Williamsburg.

15–Indiana University: “The town of Bloomington is the ultimate college town…filled with 1,200 miles of bike and running trails…”

17–University of Virginia: “The American Institute of Architects called the rolling landscape and gorgeous buildings ‘the proudest achievement of American architecture in the past 200 years.”

20–University of Washington: “The campus boasts great views of Mt. Rainier, the Cascade Range, and the Olympic Mountains.”

27–North Carolina at Chapel Hill: “Some of the most famous spots on campus are the gorgeous Old Well, a rotunda based on the Temple of Love in the gardens of Versailles.”

28–Ole Miss: “…the quintessential southern university, with beautiful classic buildings and a campus steeped in tradition.”

29–University of Wisconsin: “The views from campus overlooking [Lake Mendota and Lake Monona] are some of the greatest in the nation.”

33–University of Alabama: “”The 1,800 campus features many Greek Revival buildings.  Several…including the president’s home, were all built before the Civil War.”

34–Sonoma State: “One of the top ‘green’ campuses in the country, nearly every building on the campus has set the standard for small universities.”

40–UC Santa Cruz: “…nestled near Monterrey Bay…boasts natural wonders…hiking trails…and multiple views of California’s trademark Redwoods.”

43–Florida State University: “…campus features several historical ‘Southern-style’ dorms…and the signature Spanish moss…”

44–Texas A&M: “…boasts one of the largest campuses in America at 5,200 acres…the 12th man and Kyle Field…the library of former President George H.W. Bush…”

48–University of Colorado: “Most buildings on campus incorporate local products like sandstone and multi-level roofs that feature red tiles.”

50–University of Minnesota: “…located in the ‘Happiest City in America’…Students will enjoy the view as they cross the Mississippi River via the Washington Avenue Bridge.”