Penn may have dropped another spot in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, but the Penn community tends to believe that a good college is defined by more than just a number.
On Sept. 9, U.S. News & World Report rankings released their 2016 edition of Best Colleges, with Penn dropping to ninth place, following its drop to eighth from seventh last year. These rankings use a rigid set of metrics that include undergraduate academic reputation, graduation rates, financial resources and SAT/ACT median scores.
“The top 15 institutions are so tightly clustered that very small changes in any metric may result in a change in rank,” Vice President for University Communications Stephen MacCarthy said in an email. He added that small changes in the top tier of colleges are to be expected every year.
Han Hanson, founder of Total College Advisory, agreed with MacCarthy. “When you’re in the top 10, you are great whether you are two or nine — Harvard does not have a substantial educational edge over Penn,” he said.
Hanson added that many of the metrics used are not the best indication of a college’s academic quality. Although U.S. News dedicates 18 percent of its rankings to the average six-year graduation rate, Hanson said that using a four-year graduation rate would be a better indication of academic quality.
Although rankings identify many great schools, he said, new factors like study abroad and research opportunities should also be measured.
Dean of Admissions Eric Furda has previously said that prospective and current students and their families should assess rankings given the context.
Penn’s drop in rankings has not fazed the majority of students. In an online Daily Pennsylvanian poll asking, “Does Penn falling in the U.S News and World Report top colleges rankings mean anything?” 69 percent of respondents answered no, while only 31 percent responded yes.
For DP Columnist and College junior Alec Ward, Penn’s drop in the U.S. News rankings was actually a source of relief.
“I would be a lot more worried to see us jump four steps up than one step down based on the metrics,” Ward said. “Rankings are all about institutionalization and prioritizing things that really don’t make the campus better.”
Undergraduate Assembly Director of Student Life Emily Hoeven, a College sophmore and DP columnist, said she did look at the U.S. News rankings when applying to colleges.
“People do pay attention to the rankings, so it’s a little bit disappointing to hear that Penn dropped, but I don’t feel like it affects me now that I’m here,” she said.
Hoeven added that rankings do not change her opinion about Penn. “Whatever the rankings are, I still think Penn is a great school,” she said. “Dropping from eighth to ninth isn’t going to convince me otherwise.”
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