August 21, 2010

Rankings round up 2010

With most schools not quite in session yet, the big news in the world of higher education come mid-August is always the release of the latest rankings of colleges and universities. Besides the 2011 edition of U.S. News & World Report's list, which hit newsstands Tuesday morning, a raft rankings prepared by organizations reputable and otherwise have been published in recent weeks.

Though these rankings usually run the gamut from the spurious and unsubstantiated to the irresponsible and intentionally misleading, there's still a sweet sense of validation that comes from the seeing the old alma mater somewhere towards the top. How did Chicago fare during the 2010 awards season? The Maroon's got the recap below.


U.S. News & World Report

U of C rank: 9th among national universities, tied with Duke and Dartmouth

Previously: 8th in 2009, 8th in 2008 (Columbia leaped ahead of Chicago this year)

Who's number one? Harvard

Where's Northwestern? 12th

Methodology: 22.5% of the score is based on a measure of academic reputation, 20% on a measure of faculty resources, 15% on a measure of selectivity, 20% on graduation and retention rates. The other 22.5% comes from miscellaneous factors with lesser weights.

The U.S. News rankings include some other interesting metrics. When the magazine asked high school counselors to rate schools' relative quality, Chicago got a 4.5 out of 5, tied with Tufts and Vanderbilt for 19th among national universities. Just ahead of us, at 4.6, were Caltech, Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern, Berkeley, Penn, and Notre Dame. The schools scoring 4.4 included Boston College, Emory, and the University of Southern California.

Also of note: among U.S. News' top 25 national universities, Chicago will bill the third-highest tuition this year. Only Columbia and Carnegie Mellon charge more. Tabulate the rankings this way, and our friends at Northwestern run a cut-rate 11th.

U of C rank: 20th among colleges and universities

Previously: 21st in 2009, 18th in 2008

Who's number one? Williams

Where's Northwestern? 18th. Lame.

Methodology: 17.5% of the score is based on evaluations from, 15% is from alumni salary reports on, 12.5% comes from the average debt load for graduates, 10% is from listings of alumni in Who's Who in America. The other 45% comes from miscellaneous factors with lesser weights.

Princeton Review

U of C rank: 9th on the list of "Best College Libraries"; 12th on "Students Study the Most"; 14th on "Intercollegiate Sports Unpopular or Nonexistent"; 18th on "Town-Gown Relations are Strained"

Who's number one? Harvard took first for best college library, M.I.T. for students studying the most, the New School for unpopular/non-existent sports, and Trinity won for strained town-gown relations, inasmuch as that's winning.

Where's Northwestern? Northwestern wasn't on any of the same lists as Chicago. In fact, the only list our neighbors on the north side made was "Best College Newspaper"—a list that somehow missed Chicago (yet further indication of what a baseless charade these rankings really are).

Methodology: Online surveys of students, allegedly with some oversight to prevent tampering with results.

American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA)

U of C rank: Chicago received a "B" grade from ACTA; of the 714 schools rated, 2% got A's and 35% got B's. 14% received failing grades.

Who's number one? The 16 schools that got A's include the St. John's colleges in Maryland and New Mexico, Army and Air Force, and six schools in Texas.

Where's Northwestern? Northwestern got an F.

Methodology: Grades were assigned based on whether a school's curriculum mandates at least one class in seven subjects: composition, literature, foreign language, U.S. history, economics, mathematics, and science. The Core gets docked for letting kids skip out on econ, U.S. history, and foreign language (the one year required is deemed insufficient), but evidently four out of seven is good for a B on ACTA's scale.

Academic Ranking of World Universities

U of C rank: 9th in the overall rankings, 13th in natural science, 2nd in social science, 11th in mathematics, 9th in physics, 22nd in chemistry, 2nd in economics/business

Previously: 9th overall in 2008 and 2009

Who's number one? Harvard is first overall, and in seemingly all of the subject-specific rankings as well.

Where's Northwestern? 29th overall

Methodology: 20% of a school's score comes from the number of faculty members winning Nobel Prizes and the Fields Medal, 10% comes from alumni winning the same awards, 20% comes from the number of researchers deemed "highly-cited" in academic literature, 20% comes from the number of papers published in Nature or Science, 20% comes from another measure of citation frequency, and 10% comes from a measure of "per capita academic performance."

USA Today Coaches' Poll

U of C rank: unranked

Previously: It's been a little while...

Who's number one? Alabama

Where's Northwestern? Northwestern got two points and at least one vote, but was also unranked. We'll see what happens after the Wildcats take an L to a hungry Vandy squad during week one.

Methodology: Poll of 59 Bowl-Subdivision coaches with a well-documented bias against teams—like our beloved Maroons—that don't compete in one of the five power conferences. But south side sports fans need not fret: Princeton Review rankings notwithstanding, our women's intercollegiate soccer team will open its season (against Carthage, September 1, 4:30 p.m., behind Ratner) ranked 22nd in the nation.