MIT Ranked Sixth in U.S. News

by Matthew McGann

MIT fell to sixth place in the U.S. News and World Report rankings of undergraduate colleges and universities released this week. The Institute ranked fifth in the past two years.

While the rounding of scores was modified, the algorithm that produces the rankings remains unchanged. Scores are now rounded to the nearest integer; last year, they included one decimal point.

This year's rankings placed Harvard and Princeton Universities in first place with a perfect score of 100, followed by Duke and Yale Universities with a 99, and Stanford University with a 98.

Dartmouth College and University of Pennsylvania tied for seventh. Brown University, CalTech, Columbia University, Emory University and Northwestern University all tied for ninth to round out the top ten.

Several factors accounted for MIT's sixth place ranking. In the "retention" category, which accounts for one-quarter of a school's rank, MIT ranked fifteenth among the top 25. This attribute has two components: freshman retention and graduation rate. While MIT ranked third in freshman retention, it only placed 14th in graduation rate.

MIT also fared poorly in another category listed by U.S. News, "value added." This attribute uses a formula that calculates a "predicted graduation rate" using test scores of incoming freshmen and spending per student as the input. The predicted graduation rate is then compared to the actual value, and the difference is the "value added."

MIT had an "added value" of negative seven. Most other technical schools, including CalTech, Georgia Tech and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, also scored negatively. Only two of the eight Ivy League schools had negative scores.

MIT did better in other categories, ranking third in academic reputation and fourth in both student selectivity and freshmen in the top ten percent of their high school class.

Last year, Undergraduate Association Vice President Sandra Sandoval and former UA Floor Leader Norris Vivitrat sponsored a resolution to boycott the US News rankings and to urge the MIT Corporation to withdraw from the survey which determines them. The resolution was heavily debated at multiple UA meetings and eventually passed by a slim 14-9 margin.

The movement to boycott the rankings was led by Stanford University's undergraduate government, which formed the Forget U.S. News Coalition (FUNC). FUNC rallied student governments at tens of schools, including most of U.S. News's "Top 25" schools, to pass their own boycott resolutions.

FUNC believes that the rankings "are misleading," that "a college education cannot be quantified" in rankings, and that U.S. News "creates the misperception that its rankings are scientifically definitive."

In the magazine's defense, executive editor Mel Elfin responded that because college is such a significant financial commitment, "prospective students need--and should have--all the information -- possible to help them make the most informed decisions about where -- to go to school."