The rating game

Author: Dennis K. Brown


If this is late summer, then it must be time for national magazines to publish their annual rankings of the nations finest colleges and universities.

Two of the most prominent magazine surveys – U.S. News&World ReportsAmericas Best Collegesand theNewsweek-Kaplan College Guide- have Notre Dame rated among the nations elite institutions of higher learning.

For the second consecutive year, U.S. News ranked Notre Dame 18 th in its analysis of the 248 national universities. It is the 12th straight year that U.S. News has rated the University among the top 25 of the schools that offer a wide range of undergraduate majors as well as masters and doctoral degree programs.

The U.S. News survey examines 16 areas, among them: graduation and retention percentages, faculty resources, the percentage of classes under 20 and under 50 students, the student-to-faculty ratio, selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.

Notre Dame fared especially well in graduation and retention, ranking third after Harvard and Princeton, and alumni giving, again ranking third, behind Princeton andDartmouth.

U.S. News also recognized universities that excel in eight academic programs that the magazine believes lead to student success. Notre Dame was cited as a national leader in four of the areas – first-year experiences, study abroad, service learning, and writing in the disciplines.

Notre Dame also was recognized in the U.S. News listing titledGreat Schools, Great Prices,ranking 19 th among national universities.

Harvard andPrincetonUniversitieswere rated No. 1 in the U.S. News survey. Notre Dame was the top-ranked Catholic school.

Newsweek takes a different approach to the college rating game. Rather than producing a list in rank-order, the magazine selects what it determines to be the nationshottestschools in 25 categories.

All 25 colleges on the Newsweek-Kaplan Hot List have one attribute in common: They’re creating buzz among students, school officials and longtime observers of the admissions process,reporter Jay Mathews wrote.

Among the categories were thehottestschool for science (UniversityofCalifornia,San Diego); small state university (William and Mary), big state university (IndianaUniversity); cold weather (UniversityofVermont); and womens college (Scripps College of Claremont, Calif.).

Notre Dame was deemed the hottest legendary school. In its short synopsis of the University, Newsweek wrote:

As proof that Notre Dame doesnt rest on its reputation, the well-known nonprofit Education Trust in 2005 praised it for strengthening graduation rates by setting up special chemistry classes for low-performing students. But old values and habits are at the core of this proudly Roman Catholic University. (Only 15 percent of the 8,300 undergrads are non-Catholics.) Most students live on campus, usually in the same dorm all four years. Some residence halls have their own fights songs and mascots for intramural competitions. Ninety minutes before each Fighting Irish football clash, thousands line the route the marching band follows to the stadium.

The U.S. News and Newsweek rankings are two of the leading surveys in what has become a small cottage industry. Notre Dame officials take all of them with a grain of salt, believing that, while its better to be highly ranked than not, it is virtually impossible to quantify academic excellence.

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