New criteria boost Notre Dame’s competitive standing

Author: Matthew V. Storin


Academics are notoriously ambivalent about the rankings of colleges and universities.Many question their accuracy, even as they rejoice or anguish over the results. Notre Dame, which for years has made U.S. News&World Reports top 20, is no different.

For example, unlike some schools, Notre Dame does not issue a news release about its annual rating by U.S. News.Still, there are some smiles under the dome after a new and controversial ranking system boosted Notre Dame to 13th among all colleges and universities in the nation.

The 2005 U.S. News rankings had placed the University at 18th among the bestnational universities – doctoral.In the newer system, Notre Dame would be 11th if only doctoral universities are ranked.

The new rankings, developed by four East Coast scholars, describe what its creators call arevealed preference ranking.They boast that their rankings, based on actual preferences for one college over another in head-to-head competition, eliminate statistics that colleges might manipulate, such as admission and matriculation rates.

They researched how individual students made a choice, say, between Notre Dame and Northwestern, and recorded each choice as awinfor the school chosen and alossfor the school not chosen.Cumulative totals of wins and losses determined each schools rank.

The study, published recently by the National Bureau of Economic Research,tracked the college choices of 3,240 highly qualified students from 396 high schools nationwide.

The authors contend that many colleges build up applications numbers with unqualified students to improveselectivityand engage in early decision programs which, the authors contend, improve percentages of accepted students who choose that school.

The rankings are notdefinitive,according to the authors, who listed 100 schools in their survey, but anexampleof how the new criteria would work.The four researchers are Christopher Avery and Caroline Hoxby of Harvard University, Mark Glickman of Boston University and Andrew Metrick of the University of Pennsylvania.

Commenting on the new criteria, Daniel Saracino, Notre Dames assistant provost for enrollment, said,Their study just reconfirmsthe results of our research in recent years.Notre Dame is clearly one of the premier universities in the country.We are blessed each year with outstanding young men and women who want to become members of the Notre Dame community.

Robert Morse, director of data research for U.S. News, defended the magazines system.He told the Associated Press that U.S. News recently dropped matriculation rate as an indicator and said admissions percentage plays a small role in their assessments.Morse added that he thought it would be impractical for the researchers to get all the data they would need to make their rankings credible.

The top 20 schools in order of ranking under the new system were:
Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cal Tech, MIT, Princeton, Brown, Columbia, Amherst, Dartmouth, Wellesley, Pennsylvania, Notre Dame, Swarthmore, Cornell, Georgetown, Rice, Williams, Duke and Virginia.

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