Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame fall in annual college rankings
By Matt Smith and Noreen Gillespie
Ending a five-year run as the top-ranked Best Midwest Regional Liberal Arts College by U.S. News and World Report, Saint Mary’s fell to No. 2 in the 2000 rankings.
“To be ranked second among 139 colleges in our category by any standard is impressive,” said Saint Mary’s president Marilou Eldred.
Saint Mary’s ranked second behind Hillsdalle College of Hillsdale, Mich., a four year private, co-educational liberal arts college. Hillsdale ranked second behind Saint Mary’s in 1999.
Slipping into second by one percentage point, the factors that define the identity of a college play a large role in deciding those rankings, emphasized Eldred.
“There are many elements that define a top school, both tangible and intangible,” she said.
“A single percentage point between ourselves and the number one Midwest Regional Liberal Arts College is minor. We are pleased with our success and secure in our direction, and congratulate other colleges that are also serving their students well.”
Saint Mary’s has held a top-10 spot in the rankings since the survey’s beginning in 1986. The only other college to match Saint Mary’s five-year streak in the top spot of any category is Susquehanna University of Pennsylvania. Saint Mary’s tied Susquehanna’s record with their 1997-98 ranking.
U.S. News and World Report tabulates the rankings first by combining results of a reputational survey. The survey is completed by 1,400 accredited four-year colleges and universities which provide the magazine with educational data about the institutions.
College presidents, provosts, and deans of admission are asked to rate the schools that fall into their own categories. These surveys weight 25 percent of the final tally.
Data collected measuring academic quality, graduation rates, faculty resources, freshman retention weight for the final 75 percent of the score.
U.S. News and World Report ranks several colleges in a variety of categories annually. The full report is available at newsstands.
In an annual ranking of national Universities conducted by U.S. News and World Report magazine, Notre Dame dropped from number 18 to 19.
According to the magazine, the survey is based solely on evidence given to the magazine by each university.
Rich Folkers of U.S. News and World Report explains that little is left to opinion when the final rankings are compiled.
“We base everything on hard evidence, and there is an exact science to it,” said Folkers.
The hard evidence makes it clear that in general, Notre Dame’s competitors have shown greater improvement than the University has this year. While Notre Dame’s student retention rates and faculty resources were among the highest in the country, the University’s student selectivity rating dropped by a fraction. Other categories used in the rankings include alumni giving rates and financial resources.
Most of the data for the final ranking is derived from a complex survey completed by individuals in each university’s public relations department.
Dennis Brown, associate director of Public Relations at Notre Dame, is not too concerned with this year’s one-position drop, but stresses that the survey is not as objective as most people would believe.
“There are things in [the survey] based on people’s subjective opinions,” he said. The academic reputation category, which accounts for 25% of the final rankings, is based on a survey asking the opinion of university presidents, provosts and admissions directors.
Last year Rice University was tied at 18 with Notre Dame, but this year Rice leaped to 14.
Bob Morse, director of research for U.S. News and World Report stresses that the rankings should be used as just one of many tools for college selection.
“We try to design the list as an aide to the student, but just one of many available,” he said
“A one-position drop isn’t even one percent of the total field,” Morse stresses. “Notre Dame has remained consistent over the past few years, whereas some other schools have seen dramatic movement in the rankings.”
Brown adds that “most of the ebbs and flows in the rankings are due to changes in [the magazine’s] methodology, “rather than changes in school policies.
An interesting reason that the University may not be higher is that the rankings do not take into account any revenue from sports, nor do they include renovations and additions such as the new $20 million Hammes Notre Dame bookstore or the modernized Main Building.
Regardless of this, Brown feels that Notre Dame always belongs “somewhere in the top 20.” In the past, the University has fluctuated from a high of 16th to a low in the mid-30s in the yearly rankings.
All News Stories for Friday, August 27, 1999