One of the most controversial aspects of the U.S. News national university rankings is the use of “undergraduate academic reputation” scores based on the “expert opinion” of the 43.6 percent of college presidents, deans, and provosts who actually return the peer assessment documents to U.S. News. Each response rates a university’s academic reputation on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score.
The academic reputation category itself counts for 20 percent of the total ranking, a hefty impact indeed. Since 2015, the mean scores for 99 national universities have risen by .14, from 3.67 to 3.81, or almost 4 percent. A rise or fall of .1 or .2 seems to have minimal positive impact on a university’s ranking, while a rise or fall of .3 more likely indicates a real shift in perception and ranking..
The most likely explanation for the minimal impact, in general, of reputation score increases of less than .3 is that changes in the U.S. News rankings methodology that includes measures for “social mobility” and “graduate indebtedness” have, in many cases, overridden or undermined the impact of marginally higher scores for academic reputation.
Only one university, Northeastern, rose by .4–yet the overall ranking for Northeastern fell from 42 to 44 between 2015 and 2023. The reputation score of 11 universities rose by .3: Notre Dame, NYU, Purdue, Boston University, Virginia Tech, Georgia, UMass Amherst, UConn, Utah, UC Santa Cruz, and Florida State. For this group, the ranking for 9 or the 11 universities rose, while the other 2 fell. Only Notre Dame and UConn dropped in the rankings as their reputation scores rose.
Below is a table showing the changes in academic reputation scores and overall rankings for 99 national universities, 2015-2023, sorted by academic reputation ranking in 2023.
Below is our annual update of US News average rankings across the most recent eight-year period. Our first effort, covering the years 2014–2021, showed that public university rankings as a whole declined by 4.4 percent during that timeframe, while the decline for private universities was slightly less at 4.3 percent.
This time around, public universities have made significant gains overall, reflecting in part the changes in US News methodology. The overall rankings for publics did decline, but only by 3.0 percent. Meanwhile, the overall rankings for private universities declined by 5.4 percent.
The table below does not include universities that moved into the national university category since 2014 or that were not rated among the top 125 in that category in 2014. But here is a list of those and their 2023 ranking.
The new list has several dramatic changes, some of them making sense only if there were major adjustments or corrections to the data reported from the universities. For example, the ranking of Penn State was 47 in 2016 but 77 in 2023. The most dramatic improvement among publics was Florida State, which moved from 96 to 55 during the eight years. Undoubtedly, the biggest change among elite private institutions was the drop of Columbia from 4 to 18 across the same span of years. The decline came after accusations by a math professor that Columbia “fudged” numbers in previous years.
In the coming weeks we will also post our annual comparison of US News Rankings, academic reputation rankings, and departmental rankings.
Editor’s Note: The following information is from the US-Ireland Alliance. We are pleased to see that the Mitchell Scholar Program continues to provide exciting opportunities for students to do graduate work at several of Ireland’s world-class universities.
November 21, 2020 – The US-Ireland Alliance announced the 12 members of the George J. Mitchell Scholar Class of 2022 following virtual interviews earlier today. One of the country’s most prestigious scholarship programs, it sends future American leaders to the island of Ireland for a year of graduate study.
Trinity College Dublin
A record number of 453 individuals applied this year – a 22% increase over the previous record set two years ago. Half of the semifinalists and half of the finalists were people of color, another record. Thirty percent of the finalists were from universities or colleges not previously represented and 70% of this year’s applicants were women.
The program was founded and is led, by Trina Vargo. It is unique among the nation’s most prestigious scholarships in being founded and led by a woman. Speaking of the new class, Vargo said, “Several applicants spoke specifically of their preference for studying in Ireland vs. England. They compared the history of disenfranchisement in the US to that of Ireland’s suppression under British colonialism. Many are also interested in places, like Northern Ireland, that have wrestled with their own conflicts. Recipient Kieran Hampton said: “I too have lived a life noiselessly charged with sectarian tension and the residue of violence. I am attracted to the island of Ireland and feel I have much in common with it.”
University College Dublin
Carolina Chavez, Director of the Mitchell Scholarship, spoke of the program’s requirements and process: “Our newly selected class will continue the Mitchell tradition of exploring new perspectives on contemporary issues, building skills, and relationships that will power the US-Ireland relationship in the years to come.”
Members of the selection committee included Monica Bell, a Mitchell Scholar alum and Associate Professor of Law and Associate Professor of Sociology at Yale; Justin McCarthy, Senior Vice President at the Patient & Health Impact group at Pfizer; Cóilín Parsons, Associate Professor of English, Georgetown University; and Ireland’s Deputy Ambassador to the United States, Emer Rocke.
Major supporters of the program include Ireland’s Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science; Morgan Stanley; Pfizer; and the Pritzker Foundation. The Scholars will begin their studies in Ireland in September 2021.
Queen’s University Befast
George J. Mitchell Scholars, Class of 2022
Jonathan Chew is a senior at Baylor University where he studies Mathematics and Russian as part of the Baylor Business Fellows program. As a dual citizen of the US and the UK, he follows Brexit closely. He’s been struck by how effectively the Leave campaign used data science to win an upset victory with a heavy investment in technology consulting and micro-targeted online messaging. The integral nature of data science in both the Brexit referendum and the 2016 US Presidential Election led Jonathan to choose a major that would allow him to explore the mathematical and data analytics side of modern politics. Given the controversy surrounding the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the aftermath of Brexit, Jonathan finds Ireland an interesting place to study how initiatives like the aforesaid referendum go from concept to reality and how data science can shape election outcomes. Jonathan will study Politics and Data Science at University College Dublin.
Meghan Davis is a senior and dual major in Biological Engineering and Urban Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. An interdisciplinary researcher, Meghan is committed to tackling health inequities faced by vulnerable and marginalized communities. Currently, she is pursuing a mixed-methods approach to understand the cardiovascular disease disparities in urban Black women and interventions that can be implemented to reduce these disparities. She is collaborating with a local Black women’s health organization to ensure the project is designed with the key stakeholders, Black women, at the reins. Meghan’s service was honored earlier this year with the Martin Luther King Jr. Service award for “service to the community.” She also received MIT’s Bridge Builder award for her “strong commitment to and passion for diversity education and cultural celebration.” Meghan’s goal is to become a physician-scientist and will study Global Health at Trinity College Dublin.
Marilu Duque is pursuing an MSc in Information at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. Her work is at the nexus of national security, cybersecurity, machine learning (ML), and research. As a first-generation American from Florida, she was raised with profound patriotism towards the community that welcomed her Cuban refugee father and her Dominican mother. She learned early that technology has not always served vulnerable communities well. As an undergraduate at New York University, where she obtained her Bachelor’s in Integrated Digital Media in 2019, Marilu was the NYC Regional Lead for the Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s Code as a Second Language program and taught 60 plus students in the Bronx. She is currently a Cyber Threat Intelligence intern at FireEye where she identifies actionable intelligence to inform customers of potential cyber threats to critical infrastructure. Marilu will study Applied Cyber Security at Technological University Dublin.
Genevieve Finn recently graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, completing her English degree in 2.5 years while working part-time. She is currently a reporter at The Malibu Times, where she is working to create a Spanish-language insert in the paper’s print edition to serve Malibu’s Latinx day laborer commuter population. As a student journalist for the Daily Bruin’s magazine, she wrote about racism faced by students studying abroad and launched a soon-to-be-published, months-long investigation into the data collection policies of a for-profit plagiarism-checking company used by UCLA. She was awarded an Overseas Press Club Foundation fellowship for her writing about her voyage and will work at the Associated Press’ Mexico City Bureau when travel is safe. Noting that most international coverage of Ireland focuses on The Troubles and Brexit, she plans to seek what is beyond the major narratives. Genevieve plans a career in long-form journalism and will study Creative Writing at Trinity College Dublin.
Tawreak Gamble-Eddington is a senior studying Political Science and History at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He is President of the Black Student Union, former President of Union Pride, and part of the local chapter of My Brother’s Keeper (President Obama’s mentoring program), which built space at Union to work with disadvantaged students in Schenectady. As a Gilman Scholar, Ty traveled to Poland to study Holocaust history and Polish Jewry and volunteered with local Polish organizations and synagogues. Born to African American and Irish American parents, Ty hopes to continue researching his ancestry in Ireland. Though his great-grandmother grew up in an orphanage in the Boston-area, the family has traced her roots to Limerick. Planning for an eventual career at the intersections of law and minority advocacy, Ty will study Race, Ethnicity, Conflict at Trinity College Dublin.
Kiran Hampton recently graduated from Harvard University with High Honors in History and Literature. As the President of Harvard Radio Broadcasting, he ran the largest open organization on campus, setting and executing policy for a 24/7 commercial radio station with a large share of the Boston market. Kiran and his team grew WHRB administratively and financially while significantly increasing its membership and improving the quality of its broadcasting. Kiran is proficient in Arabic, was a Harvard Crimson Editorial Board Editor and tutored students for the citizenship exam. His academic interest is in administrative and economic institutions, “in particular, in the sliding schema of regulation, by which private organizations and the state enforce economic and social rules with maniacal harshness against the poor and flexible permissiveness against the powerful.” Kiran has been admitted to Harvard Law. He will study Economics at Queen’s University Belfast.
Abigail Hickman is a senior at Columbia University where she majors in Anthropology. A member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, she is interested in Indigenous Futurisms, a subfield of speculative fiction that focuses on what decolonization might look like. She serves on Columbia’s executive board of the Native American Council, where she spearheaded a successful petition for university recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Abigail notes that this relationship revealed its unyielding strength as recently as this year when Irish citizens fundraised thousands of dollars in COVID-19 relief aid for the Navajo and Hopi Nations, and when Ireland’s lacrosse team bowed out of the sport’s top international tournament to support the inclusion of the Iroquois Nationals. Today, Indigenous people still confront eliminatory systems of power and Abigail wants to imagine what might come next. She hopes to work as a professor at a university with a large Indigenous student population. She will study English at the University of Limerick.
Joy Nesbitt is a senior at Harvard University studying Social Anthropology and Music. A director, actress, and musician, she uses the arts to bring attention to social justice issues. She currently serves as Co-President of BlackCAST, where she organizes the annual Black Playwright’s Festival and develops art that foregrounds Black dramatists and theater-makers. Joy revamped KeyChange, the acapella group focused on performing music from the African Diaspora, serving as President in the group’s first returning year. This summer, she directed several plays on Zoom, including a successful production of God of Carnage and Romeo & Juliet. Joy finds that her experience as a Black woman from the South is regularly affected and dependent upon a global history of colonialism, slavery, and systematic disenfranchisement. She sees a similarity with British colonialism’s impact on Ireland. Joy will study Theatre Directing at The Lir Academy, Trinity College Dublin.
Maysa Sitar is a senior at Michigan State University where she studies Political Science. She became interested in voting at an early age while growing up in the sparsely populated Upper Peninsula of Michigan. As a sophomore, she petitioned her principal to offer the PSAT, which was not previously offered. As the MSU student body Vice President for Governmental Affairs, she has hosted on-campus debates for local elections, doubled dorm voter registration efforts, and create easy to read, nonpartisan guides for every election. MSU saw a 21 percent increase in the turnout rate for the 2018 midterm elections. Maysa is currently conducting independent research to examine the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on electoral manipulation in countries with regularly scheduled elections during 2020. Maysa will study Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queen’s University Belfast.
Amelia Steinbach is a senior at Duke University, where she is an Alice M. Baldwin Scholar – a prestigious four-year women’s leadership program meant to replicate the benefit of women’s colleges within a liberal arts education. A Political Science major, she is the primary instructor of a course that explores the history of women in the American government and the disproportionate impact of various policies on women and girls. Amelia served as a research fellow for Kathy Manning’s congressional campaign in North Carolina in 2018 and interned with U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) in 2019. After the internship, the Washington Post published her editorial detailing the lack of race and gender diversity in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s expert witness hearings. The piece emphasized the responsibility that leadership and staff in both parties have in addressing this imbalance. She will attend Harvard Law School in the fall of 2023. Amelia will study Gender, Politics and International Relations at University College Dublin.
Maura Welch is a speechwriter for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. She has written speeches about a host of local and national issues, including climate action and racial justice, and developed creative outreach materials including videos, opinion columns, and a podcast. She is especially adept at handling sensitive topics, such as the Trump Administration’s changes to Title IX protections for survivors of sexual assault, the Mayor’s commitment to protecting immigrants and refugees, the city’s response to the opioid epidemic, and the murder of George Floyd. After graduating from The George Washington University with a degree in Environmental Studies in 2013, she worked for The Nature Conservancy’s Islands Program on Martha’s Vineyard where she managed communications for a new citizen science program, developed educational curricula for the public school system, and coordinated sustainability projects. Maura sees clear parallels between COVID-19 and the climate crisis and is ready to play a bigger role in promoting sustainability and equity in Boston. She will study Comparative Social Change at Trinity College Dublin.
Selena Zhao was selected last year for a Mitchell Scholarship, but a sports-related injury resulted in her deferral to the Class of 2022. Selena graduated in May 2020 from Harvard with a degree in Government. As a student, she researched consociationalism and the impact of this form of power-sharing. She has explored the topic in Nigeria, Lebanon, and wrote her senior thesis on the Good Friday Agreement and how it incentivizes the ethnonational divide for political gain. Selena has worked as a research assistant for several Harvard professors and contributed to Professor Steve Levitsky’s bestseller How Democracies Die. In London, she interned with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, researching a UK centrist platform. Before university, Selena was a competitive figure skater for the Canadian International Team and was the 2015 Junior National Champion. She managed and performed at An Evening with Champions, a yearly fundraiser for pediatric cancer research. She will study Conflict Transformation at Queen’s University Belfast.
For several years, we have kept track of U.S. News rankings of academic departments so that we can give readers some idea of which universities are strongest in 15 academic disciplines: biology, business, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, economics, education, engineering, English, history, math, physics, political science, psychology, and sociology.
Sather Gate, UC Berkeley
We use this data for a variety of posts, including some that compare public and private university departmental rankings. In other posts we have shown the relation of departmental rankings to other factors, such as U.S. News rankings and lists based on academic reputation. In yet other posts we have listed the disciplines and then grouped universities under each discipline.
But in this post we simply list 75 public universities in order of the aggregate average of 15 academic departments. One caveat: not all of the 75 universities had a ranked department for each of the 15 disciplines. Nevertheless, for those who prioritize high quality in a university across the board, the list could be useful. Students often change majors, and it is reassuring to know that the new major may likely be as strong as the original choice.
UC Berkeley is far and away the leader with an average department ranking of 2.13 nationwide. This is all the more remarkable because many universities do not have even a single department ranked in the top 75.
Although rankings of international universities are not especially important for some academic disciplines, rankings of engineering and technology are of significant interest because so many U.S. companies who employ graduates in these fields have extensive international contacts, including multiple office facilities abroad.
Whether you are working for an American engineering or tech company at home or abroad, you will have colleagues from across the globe. At least one measure of your credibility with them could be based on the worldwide prominence of your alma mater.
Below are the top U.S. universities in engineering and technology, according to the Times Higher Ed rankings. The schools are listed in numerical order according to their U.S. ranking with their international ranking alongside. After the top 100 in the world, the rankings begin to group in increments of 25 or 50. World rankings up to 250 are included.
Yes, the title of this post is a mouthful. For years now, I have kept an updated list of the departmental rankings that U.S. News publishes so that I can add them to the biannual profiles I do of honors programs. When the 2020 rankings came out, I wanted to see whether there was any clear relationship between the departmental scores and the academic reputation scores. Then I compared the latest reputation scores with those published in 2015 to see how much had changed. Finally, the table below also includes changes in university rankings and the most recent rankings for social mobility.
(I would welcome comments on this post. Please email email@example.com.)
It appears that the social mobility metric has had some impact, especially if the ranking is very strong, as in the case of many UC campuses and Florida institutions. There is no clear relationship between departmental scores and academic reputation scores. Departmental rankings do have a modest relationship to the overall U.S. News rankings, but there are many inconsistencies. Academic reputation scores do seem to show some “grade inflation” since 2015; often this is the case even when the U.S News ranking has dropped significantly.
The table below includes data for 100 public and private universities.
The cumulative rankings that I do for 15 academic disciplines requires some explanation. U.S. News only ranks graduate programs for most departments. Here are the disciplines for which I have cumulative departmental rankings, using the most recent data (2018): biological sciences; business (undergrad); chemistry, computer science; earth sciences; economics; education; engineering (undergrad);English; history; mathematics; physics; political science; psychology; and sociology.
Not every university has a ranked department in each of the 15 disciplines. I averaged departmental rankings for every university that had at least six ranked departments. For universities with, say, fewer than 12 ranked departments, the total ranking will be artificially high because only the best departments are ranked and I cannot include unranked departents. Most universities have 12-15 departments that are ranked, and so the overall average will be more useful for them. And some of the universities with a small number of ranked departments are specialized, such as Georgia Tech and Caltech. Clearly, even ranking only six or seven departments for those schools and getting a strong result is not misleading.
Universities with fewer than 10 departmental rankings: Colorado School of Mines; Georgia Tech; Miami Ohio; American; Brigham Young; Caltech; Dartmouth; Drexel; Fordham; Georgetown; and RPI.
It should be said that universities with relatively low departmental rankings can legitimately receive high rankings because of other meaningful factors, such as grad and retention rates and class size. Some excellent universities do not have an especially strong research focus or a lot of graduate programs. Dartmouth is one prominent example.
The universities below appear in rank order of their 2020 academic reputation, according to U.S. News.
Serving a major public university as president for 19 years is a strong legacy in itself, but outgoing University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft and her husband, Steven Greenbaum, also announced in May a $20 million donation to help build a new honors college building. Then, on June 1 at a retirement gala for her, they donated an additional $3 million to endow the position of Dean of the Judy Genshaft Honors College.
Together these donations should propel the university and the JGHC to even loftier status. Under Genshaft’s leadership, USF has already risen to “preeminnent” status among Florida’s universities. The status, designated and approved by the Florida Board of Governors, is based on 12 benchmarks, including graduation and retention rates. The designation leads to greater funding to attract new students, recruit faculty, and promote research. The only other preeminent universities in the state thus far are the University of Florida and Florida State University.
Artist’s rendering of new home for Judy Genshaft Honors College at USF
The major part of the donation to the JGHC will fund almost half of the total cost of a new honors building, to be built just to the north of the Muma College of Business. The five-story building will feature office, classroom, meeting, and lounge spaces for students and faculty.
JGHC Dean Charles Adams says that the gifts “will allow us to greatly enhance our programmatic and curricular offerings, and expand our enrollment,” which is planned to increase from the current level of 2,200 students to around 3,000 students in the next five years. The honors college is already known for its large number of interdisciplinary, honors-only class sections.
The College Board has developed a new data-driven tool designed to give college admissions officers the ability to evaluate test scores in light of an applicant’s educational, social, and economic background. The effort is the Board’s latest attempt to offset criticism that its tests favor the affluent, Asian students, and white students.
The new tool could also increase Latino and African American enrollment without the specific consideration of race or ethnicity, otherwise known as affirmative action, an approach that the Supreme Court might soon disallow.
So far, 50 colleges have been using the tool; it will expand to 150 later this year and be available to all schools in 2020.
The tool utilizes 15 factors (listed below) and provides a spreadsheet for admissions officers to use in analyzing the factors in relation to scores.
The new approach is certain to draw criticism, however. Students who live in relatively affluent neighborhoods, attend strong high schools, and enroll in advanced placement courses will receive low “adversity scores” and may find themselves relatively less likely to be admitted to some colleges.
Another issue: the data is based mostly on census block and other federal data, not on individual financial information. A wealthy white student might live in a gentrified neighborhood with inaccurate data indicating that it is still a lower income area. Similarly, a disadvantaged student might live just inside a census tract with high median income stats. Students will not receive a copy of the score–another area of controversy.
Students who attend highly competitive high schools in states with automatic admission based on high school class standing, such as Texas, already find it relatively harder to graduate in the top 6th or 7th percentile of their class. They are admitted “holistically” if they are not in the top percentiles; low adversity scores might narrow their chances even more. Or help them…who knows?
On the other hand, if the new tool on its own can lead to the higher enrollment of students now benefiting from automatic admission, Texas might be able to abandon the rule altogether.
High School Information–Four Factors
Average senior class size;
Average percentage of students taking the SAT;
Average freshman SAT score at colleges attended by SAT-taking graduates of the applicant’s high school;
Percentage of students at the high school who participate in the free and reduced-price lunch program.
High School AP Opportunity–Four Factors
Number of unique AP courses taught in that high school;
Percentage of the senior class who took at least one AP exam;
Average number of AP Exams taken by graduates who sat for at least one exam;
Average AP scores across all AP Exam takers and exams.
High School Percentiles–One Factor
The 25th, 50th, and 75th old SAT percentiles on Critical Reading, Math,
and Math + Critical Reading scores for graduates.
Neighborhood and High School Context–Six Factors
Undermatch Risk–Academic undermatch occurs when a student’s academic credentials substantially exceed the credentials of students enrolled in the same postsecondary institution.
Crime Risk–The Crime Risk represents the likelihood of being a victim of a
crime–not the likelihood of committing a crime.
Family Stability–Family stability is a combined measure based on the proportion of two-parent families, single-parent families, and children living under the poverty line within each neighborhood, or across the neighborhoods of past students attending that high school.
Educational Attainment–Educational attainment is a combined measure that looks at the pattern of educational attainment demonstrated by young adults in the community. ESL participation.
Housing Stability–Housing stability is a composite measure that includes vacancy rates, rental versus home ownership, and mobility/housing turnover, again based on aggregate population statistics.
Median Family Income — Median family income is based on weighted data from the Census/ American Community Survey.
Overall context is a weighted average of the individual metrics listed above. College admissions officers receive (1) bar graphs showing the applicant’s SAT score relative to others who share the applicant’s overall percentile of neighborhood
adversity and high school adversity and (2) the average freshman SAT score of entering students at the colleges that these respective groups of students attended.
“Texas CSB provides a rigorous four-year undergraduate curriculum aimed at preparing students for top technology careers. The Texas CSB offers distinct benefits for students looking toward careers in today’s tech-focused business world. University leaders anticipate that it will attract high-achieving students with strong quantitative and technical skills from across the nation. The program is a particularly attractive opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs and for students interested in data and marketing analytics, financial engineering, and leadership roles in tech companies.”
Rest assured that the selection process is extremely rigorous. The CSB will have to approximate the standards of the Turing Scholars Program and the Business Honors Program. “Turing denies 85% of valedictorian applicants. That means it’s especially important that you demonstrate a breadth and depth of commitment in computer-related activities.” The average SAT for the BHP is north of 1500; the same is true for CSB. Only about 12% of applicants gain admission to the BHP.
Turing Scholars at UT Austin
“Our top-ranked faculty push students to think outside the box and learn the varied business and computer science disciplines,” according to the website. “The curriculum is comprised of 44 classes, taken with 30-40 students, exposing students to all facets of business and computer science.