USC drops to No. 28 in US News rankings

New rankings give more weight to factors such as first-generation students.

students walking down Trousdale
U.S. News and World Report changed many of the criteria it uses to grade and rank universities on its annual list, placing less emphasis on factors such as class size and more on graduation rates and alumni salary. (Gina Nguyen / Daily Trojan)

The U.S. News & World Report published its 2024 ranking of the best national universities Sunday night, with USC ranking No. 28, three spots lower than 2023. The No. 28 spot was a four-way tie, with UC Davis, UC San Diego and University of Florida receiving the same ranking. 

U.S. News & World Report has published these rankings each fall for decades, evaluating each college’s position on how well they meet certain criteria. The rankings carry significant weight, with many prospective students taking into account the rankings when determining where to enroll.

In the wake of prominent institutions, like Columbia University, denouncing the rankings as biased and refusing to participate, the organization reworked the way it determines its rankings. A press release published Monday by U.S. News announced key changes in the ranking process, including the incorporation of new factors such as enrollment of first-generation students and salary of graduated students compared to non-college graduates. 

It also eliminated certain factors such as “alumni giving rate, class size, the high school class standing of new entrants, the proportion of graduates borrowing and the proportion of faculty with terminal degrees,” which previously summed to constitute 18% of its methodology. Beyond these, the rankings don’t take into account factors such as student life, quality of residential housing and athletics unlike other organizations that post college rankings, like Niche. 

U.S. News also changed how different factors were weighted, with certain ones like graduation rate being weighted more than previous years, and others like financial resources per student being weighted less.

“The significant changes in this year’s methodology are part of the ongoing evolution to make sure our rankings capture what is most important for students as they compare colleges and select the school that is right for them,” said Eric Gertler, executive chairman and CEO of U.S. News.

With the methodological edits, many schools experienced much more drastic changes to their rankings, including both increases and decreases of up to 100 spots. In general, the rankings of public universities benefited the most. While many private schools saw their rankings fall, most of the top nine — all of which are private — maintained or increased their spots.

To determine each school’s final placement, all colleges are weighted on each category and then given a score out of 100. USC received a score of 83, although U.S. News hides most of the categorical data used in its rankings.

Many national and international magazines publish college rankings, which are one of many considerations some people take into account when choosing a university,” the University wrote in a statement to Daily Trojan Monday. “The way these rankings are calculated changes frequently. As a result, we don’t comment on them.”

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