STORY BY JESSIE SPANGLER
U.S. News states that their ranking system rests on “two pillars.” The first pillar is a formula that uses quantitative measures that various education experts have said are reliable indicators of academic quality. The second is U.S. News’s own researched view on what matters in education.
The basis of the college ranking system is called the Carnegie Classification, which is a way of splitting all types of different colleges into their own groups. U.S. News has its own categories (National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities and Regional Colleges), but all of their definitions stem from the Carnegie Classification.
“Students and families look to college rankings for a sense of direction in the college search process,” said Laura Linn, Drake’s director of admissions. “This particular ranking provides very specific confirmation that we are one of the finest universities in the Midwest.”
Most of the data comes from 1,376 ranked colleges. This past year, 92.7 percent of those colleges turned in their statistical information to be reviewed.
Any missing data was collected from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Council for Aid to Education and the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.
This helps U.S. News receive information on graduation rates, alumni giving rates, acceptance rates, financial resources and admissions test scores.
“Students and families are influenced by these rankings,” Linn said. “Our placement provides excellent validation of Drake’s excellence and value. As a result, we expect to see the continuation of strong interest in Drake University.”
U.S. News relies on a number of categories to measure academic quality.
Some include: assessment by administrators at peer institutions, retention of students, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, alumni giving and graduation rate performance. This helps the publication figure out where each school stands in the Carnegie Classification and provides a reflection of the student body, faculty, financial resources and how well the institution does with educating its students.
“This is the seventh consecutive year that Drake has ranked third overall in U.S. News and World Report. This magazine is just one of many rankings, and in others, we rank higher,” Linn said.
Some colleges have been known to try and tweak their data in an attempt to rise in the rankings.
Three years ago, George Washington University, Claremont McKenna College and Emory University reported false information. Tulane and Texas Christian University have also given U.S. News information that was altered.
“An important side note about these rankings: We do know that some colleges and universities have tried to game the system with regard to rankings and have provided false data just to improve where they fall on this list. We provide true and accurate data to all these sources,” Linn said.
In 2013, Michael Luca at Harvard Business School and Jonathan Smith at the College Board researched how students’ application decisions are affected by the rankings presented by U.S. News in an article in the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy.
They found that when a college improves one place in the ranking, this leads to a 1 percent increase in the number of applications a school receives.
While a 1 percent increase is a relatively minute change, other factors have bigger impacts on the number of applications a school receives.
“Our application numbers are not tied to these rankings,” Linn said. “However, know that our favorable rank certainly provides confirmation to students who are already interested in Drake and may encourage others to learn more about the university.”
This year’s results were based on information collected in the spring of this year.