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Columbia University Drops to #18 from #2 in U.S. News Ranking | This Week in Admissions News

16 SEPT 2022

The world of college admissions is ever-changing and for students with top university ambitions, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. This week ,Columbia University dropped to the #18 from #2 in the U.S. News & World Report's annual college rankings after admitting the University had submitted inaccurate data in earlier years. Check back next week to see what’s new and noteworthy in university admissions!


Columbia University Drops to #18 from #2 in U.S. News Ranking

Columbia University dropped to the #18 from the #2 spot in the U.S. News & World Report's annual college rankings after admitting it had submitted inaccurate data in earlier years — the university has not ranked as low as #18 since 1988.

Earlier this year, Columbia’s faculty member, Professor Michael Thaddeus, scrutinized Columbia’s place in the U.S. News rankings, questioning the accuracy of the data the University had submitted for the undergraduate rankings which placed it in a tie with Harvard in the #2 position.

Thaddeus examined the data and concluded that "several of the key figures supporting Columbia's high ranking are inaccurate, dubious or highly misleading." One example was that Columbia reported 100% of its faculty had Phds or terminal degrees, but 66 of almost 1,000 held master's or bachelor's degrees.

Thaddeus' report prompted Columbia to announce it would not submit statistics in order to conduct an analysis of its data practices.

On Friday, Columbia Provost Mary Boyce announced that in fact 95.3% of Columbia's faculty hold terminal degrees, based on a new analysis. There were also inaccuracies in its earlier data regarding class size, an issue since colleges with smaller class sizes are ranked higher. Approximately 60% of undergrad classes have fewer than 20 students, rather than the 80% reported to U.S. News & World Report.

"Anything less than complete accuracy in the data that we report — regardless of the size or the reason — is inconsistent with the standards of excellence to which Columbia holds itself," Boyce shared in the statement. "We deeply regret the deficiencies in our prior reporting and are committed to doing better."

According to the Times, U.S. News relies heavily on data self-reported by universities to compile its rankings, which substantially influences students' college choices. “The broader lesson everyone should keep in mind is that U.S. News has shown its operations are so shoddy that both of [the rankings] are meaningless,” Thaddeus said to the Times. “If any institution can decline from No 2 to No 18 in a single year, it just discredits the whole ranking operation,” he adds.

To counterbalance the drop in ranking, Columbia published a Common Data Set that provides prospective students and families with a profile of Columbia's undergraduate experience — which includes “much of the same information used in the U.S. News university profiles impart.”

U.S. News calculates 10 distinct rankings based on universities' academic missions. Every school's overall score and, by extension, its overall rank are determined by the sum of weighted, normalized values across 17 indicators of academic quality.

Other top stories in admissions news this week:

  1. In its weekly Latitudes newsletter covering international education, The Chronicle of Higher Education writes India has skyrocketed ahead of China to become the “leading source of new international graduate students” in the US, based on data released by the Council of Graduate Schools earlier this month. The number of first-time Indian graduate students increased by 430% in the fall of 2021 compared to China’s 35% growth. Although India outpaced China in new enrollments, Chinese graduate students still make up the greatest share of international graduate students in the US.
  2. According to a U.S. News survey conducted at the end of fiscal year 2021, Harvard has the largest endowment among U.S. national universities at $53 billion. Yale University in Connecticut has the second-highest endowment, with around $42 billion — $11 billion less than Harvard. The article notes both of these Ivy League schools have higher endowments than the gross domestic product of some countries, “including Bolivia, Iceland, Paraguay and Mali”, per World Bank data. Check out the article for the full list of universities!
  3. In response to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, the U.S. government is offering Special Student Relief to Venezuelan students on F-1 visas, allowing them to work more hours and reduce their course loads. Students in lawful F-1 status and who are currently maintaining F-1 status are eligible to receive relief from Sept. 10, 2022, to March 10, 2024.
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