USC remains the 23rd best university in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s 2012 college rankings released Tuesday, but it moved up in the “Up-and-Coming Schools” list from No. 11 to No. 8.
The Up-and-Coming Schools list identifies universities making “promising and innovative changes” to student, academic and faculty life. The schools are ranked based on peer votes from college officials.
“USC’s reputation has been strengthening over the past 20 years,” said Kirk Brennan, USC director of admissions. “It is more of a long-term trend than any sort of short-term recent change. People are finally catching up to the great things that are happening here.”
Steve Wolfsohn, a junior majoring in biomedical engineering, said receiving a high rank in the up-and-coming category shows the university’s ambition.
“It’s nice to know that we are at the top, but we’re not settling,” Wolfsohn said.
In the rankings of best national colleges overall, USC is again tied with Carnegie Mellon for No. 23 — as it was in last year’s rankings — and sits between Georgetown University (No. 22) and UCLA (No. 25).
USC is the only top-25 university to also be ranked on the up-and-coming schools list.
Since 1991, when then-President Steven B. Sample began leading USC, the school has moved up 28 spots in the national university ranking to where it currently sits.
“Movement happens only occasionally,” Brennan said. “I think we made a big jump a year or two ago — that’s good. Reputation is one of larger components in these rankings and I think President [C. L. Max] Nikias’ campaign to boost endowments will make a difference.”
Since his inauguration last October, Nikias has raised more than $1 billion dollars in large gifts to USC. This includes a $200-million donation from David and Dana Dornsife to the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences in October 2010.
The USC Marshall School of Business undergraduate programs went up one spot to No. 9 in the nation since last year’s ranking of No. 10. For programs at the graduate level, the Viterbi School of Engineering is ranked No. 11 and the Rossier School of Education is ranked No. 14.
“All our deans are doing terrific things, the more people talk about them and more people become aware internationally and the better it is,” Brennan said. “It’s not a surprise that Marshall did extremely well. It is a great program.”
The U.S. News & World Report college rankings are based on a weighted combination of key indicators, including class sizes, average freshman retention rate, faculty resources, peer evaluations and high school counselor evaluations. The alumni giving rate accounts for 5 percent of the total ranking score.
For Stephanie Fong, a freshman majoring in biomedical engineering, USC’s ranking at No. 23 indicates it is one of the best colleges in the nation. “That’s why I came here,” Fong said.
Current USC students can rejoice in the school’s standing above its rival university — UCLA at No. 25 — but the rankings play an important role for high school students, such as Jimmy Chen, who are still deciding which college to attend.
“I wouldn’t want to think that it’s a giant factor, but it is pretty important,” Chen said. “Since I can’t visit or know about all the campuses, it is nice to have some outside source telling me what is good.”
Chen is currently a high school senior in Portland, Ore. He said he plans to apply to USC after hearing from friends about the university.
“I know that USC has good academics, so now I am just trying to figure everything else out,” Chen said. “I haven’t visited the campus yet, but I know a lot of people from my high school who have gone to USC and they seem to like it a lot.”
Kristy Pyke contributed to this report.