USC ranked 23rd on the 2014 U.S. News and World Report National University Rankings, tying with Carnegie Mellon, UCLA, University of Virginia and Wake Forest University. Both USC and UCLA increased their rankings after tying for 24th place last year.
“Universities that tie for the same place can be alike in some ways. For instance, USC and UCLA are both fairly large, research universities,” said Jerome Lucido, research professor of education and executive director of the USC Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice. “But there are other universities that are not alike, such as Rochester and Caltech, that you find it hard to believe the same criteria can be used to rate its quality.”
U.S. News and World Report altered its methodology for determining the rankings this year, putting less emphasis on freshman academics and more emphasis on graduation rates.
“Graduation rates are an important measure of commitment to student goals, an area where USC has excelled,” Lucido said. “This is one of the values of the rankings because universities commit to greater student success.”
Lucido noted that though the rankings might seem like an easy, objective comparison of a wide variety of schools, they can overlook important factors that define a particular university.
“The rankings are a statement of wealth and selectivity and less about quality,” Lucido said. “Frankly, you can’t tell if one institution is better than another. Students should look at the character and environment of the school as well. People use [the rankings] for reassurance and external validation.”
Some students agreed with Lucido that rankings are not the best way to determine a school’s quality.
“I do think rankings are a little important because a lot of students tend to make their decisions based on it even though they’re not the best predictor of a school,” said Achyuth Sriram, a junior majoring in neuroscience. “If we are tied with a good school, it can help us. I think the rankings are important -— but only for prospective students, not for students who already go here.”
Many students felt USC’s improvement in the rankings over the past few years reflects well on the school.
“Hopefully this increase in rank is only the beginning of USC’s rise to the top,” said Kevin Liu, a sophomore majoring in chemical engineering.
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