At No. 24, USC is one spot lower on the 2013 U.S. News and World Report National University Rankings, which were released Tuesday night.
USC tied with UCLA, which ranked No. 25 last year, and University of Virginia for the No. 24 spot. Harvard University and Princeton University tied for first.
Though the U.S. News and World Report is a respected publication, some experts believe it does not correctly reflect a university’s quality.
Jerome Lucido, a research professor of education at the USC Rossier School of Education, said the university’s position on the list provides little to no indication of the quality of the school.
“The U.S. News rankings only gives an illusion that institutional quality can be measured, and there’s way too much emphasis placed on these rankings,” Lucido said. “It creates competition over categories that, at best, only reflect educational quality instead of actually measuring it.”
U.S. News and World Report bases its rankings on 16 criteria, including freshmen retention, acceptance rates, graduation rates and strength of the faculty. Each criterion is then given a specific weight in an overall formula that is determined by a subjective assessment of how much it matters. A final weighted composite score for each school allows it to be ranked and compared to other universities.
According to the website, the list is based on these quantitative measures, along with the publication’s own “researched view of matters in education.”
Katherine Strashnov, a sophomore majoring in fine arts, says that the rankings are helpful in determining which universities are competitive in their academics, a fact that might be relevant once students enter the job market.
“I pay attention to rankings because when you’re looking for jobs, employers want to see that the school you graduated from has a solid reputation and gave you a great education,” Strashnov said. “Ranking schools is the easiest way to tell where a school stands and therefore, where a potential employee stands compared to others.”
Lucido, however, suggests that ranking universities might be detrimental to students just entering college because it reinforces the idea that high school seniors must earn admission to a top-ranked university. Lucido believes this leads students to focus on a ranking over choosing a school that might be best suited for them.
“Institutions exacerbate the problem by touting their rankings, which in reality are only meaningful in terms of bragging rights,” Lucido said.
In an explanation of how they calculate the “Best Colleges” rankings, U.S. News says that their data is meant to be used in conjunction with students’ own intuition while selecting a college.
Kenneth Mang, a sophomore majoring in business administration, said he believes that the criteria used to rank universities cannot be applied to accurately rate one school over another.
“USC is a very well-rounded school,” he said. “I don’t think these rankings can measure a lot of the things that make this university so great.”
Some students, however, said they believe the lists are necessary because it is important for people to have a sense of a university’s reputation.
“It’s a necessary process because nothing is completely fair. Just because a few schools sometimes feel like it’s unfair doesn’t mean it should be completely eliminated,” said Lexine Cudjoe, a junior majoring in political science. “We need a way to measure a school’s worth.”
Still, Cudjoe couldn’t help but be annoyed to be ranked at the same level as UCLA.
“It sucks to be the same level as your rival,” Cudjoe said. “A lot of people say USC pays their way up there. But with all this money we should be able to equip our students in such a way that we deserve a higher ranking.”