The University of Connecticut is back in the top 20 in this year’s U.S. News & World Report college ranking, nudging its way back up to No. 19 among national public universities.
And this year, unlike two years ago when it first broke into the top 20, UConn is the only No. 19. In 2011, it was a four-way tie for that position. Last year the university dropped to No. 21.
UConn President Susan Herbst, who frequently voices her determination to see UConn climb in the rankings, allows that the rankings are not “a perfect measure of university excellence.”
“That said, this is without question the most impressive position on the U.S. News ranking that UConn has ever reached,” Herbst said in written statement. “It confirms what many already know: that UConn is among the best universities in the nation, with a superb and growing academic reputation.”
Elsewhere in Connecticut, many schools stayed about the same in the rankings. Once again, Yale ranked third, behind Princeton in first place and Harvard at second among national universities.
Among national liberal arts colleges, Trinity College edged up from No. 38 to 36 while Wesleyan University maintained its position at 17. Connecticut College came in at 45, a few notches below last year’s 41.
Among regional northern universities, Quinnipiac University crept up from No. 13 to 11.
Many universities and colleges have a love-hate relationship with the controversial annual rankings, based on whether they slide up or down, though some insist, at least officially, that they ignore them.
Lauren Rubenstein, spokeswoman for Wesleyan said in an e-mail, “We don’t comment on any rankings.”
At Trinity College, spokeswoman Michele Jacklin also chose not to comment directly on that college’s slightly improved status. She said in an email that the rankings are “just one of many tools that parents and prospective students can use to assess institutions of higher learning.
“In recent years, the number of online tools has grown exponentially,” Jacklin said. “Ultimately, it comes down to which college or university is the best fit for an individual student.”
U.S. News & World Report says it ranks the schools according to many different factors including graduation and retention rates, student selectivity, financial resources, alumni giving, and the assessment of academics at peer institutions.
Why did UConn climb a few notches into the top 20 of national public universities?
Bob Morse, director of data research for the rankings, said it was because of a change in methodology this year that placed greater emphasis on the graduation rate and student retention.
In addition, UConn did well in a category called “graduation rate performance,” which is the difference between the actual and the predicted graduation rate. UConn’s actual graduation rate was significantly higher than a prediction based on SAT scores, expenditure on students and other factors.
Those factors all led to boosting UConn in the rankings, he said. He said that UConn was less strong in the categories of alumni giving, faculty resources, and admissions data including applicants’ SAT scores.
Herbst had a different way of explaining it: “Our success is owed to the visionary support UConn receives from the state and its leaders, so every citizen in Connecticut can be proud of their flagship public university.”
Text by Kathleen Megan, Hartford Courant; video by Tim Lammers, Fox CT