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Inching toward U.S. News & World Report's top 10 list of colleges, the University received its highest ranking ever, tying for 11th place with the University of Chicago. The newest ranking, released yesterday, also puts the University sixth in the Ivies, ahead of Columbia and Cornell Universities. This is the first time the University has ever surpassed more than one Ivy League school. U.S. News bases the evaluation on several criteria -- including academic reputation, resources and selectivity, and then gives each school an overall score. The University received a 96.4 out of 100, two-tenths of a point below the number 10 school, Johns Hopkins University. The University has steadily moved up during the past few years, placing 16th in 1993 and 12th in 1994. At one point, it was not even included in the top 25. In this year's survey, the University ranked eighth for faculty resources, ahead of Yale and Brown Universities and Dartmouth College. It placed 14th for academic reputation, also ahead of Dartmouth. While University President Judith Rodin said she always wonders about the methods U.S. News uses when conducting the survey, she said the University's improved ranking represents what is already evident. "I think Penn is on a roll," Rodin said. "We've had a remarkable increase in popularity judged by the application rate, a 33 percent increase in press coverage and I expect that the momentum will continue. "The ranking will add to the momentum, but it won't be a major variable," she added. "Penn is on the move, and everyone is recognizing it." For the sixth consecutive year, Harvard University finished in first place in the poll, followed by Yale and Princeton Universities, which tied for second -- an improvement over Yale's third place last year. Columbia slid six spots to 15, while Johns Hopkins jumped from number 22 to 10th place. Few would deny that a high ranking boosts the University's image. Admissions Dean Lee Stetson said the University could feel the effects of the survey as early as this fall. "I'm pleased to see that we're moving in the right direction," Stetson said. "I expect that in the year that we are anticipating ahead, we'll see the admission and application rate improve even more." Last year, the University received 15,050 applications -- the most ever. Of those, only a third were accepted, the lowest percentage in years. Stetson said one cannot give the survey too much credibility because it does not always provide a full picture of the institution. "The fact that a school like Johns Hopkins can go from 22 to 10 shows that the method is flawed," Stetson said. "Institutions inherently don't change that quickly. "I always felt that it would be better to just have a list of the top 25," he added. "The level of specificity that is applied is sometimes misleading." Duke University, for example, ranked higher than the University at sixth place, Stetson said. But more high school seniors who are accepted to both schools choose to attend the University, he added. And Dartmouth, which placed seventh overall, received 17th for academic reputation but earned the top ranking for teaching. The U.S. News report also surveyed 947 college presidents and 365 student newspaper editors about affirmative action in the spring. The presidents and editors appeared divided over the issue, with 55 percent of presidents saying that affirmative action should largely remain unchanged, compared with 26 percent of the student editors. Fifty-seven percent of editors said that preferential treatment should be limited to the economically disadvantaged, compared with 37 percent of presidents. The full report, published in the U.S. News 1996 "America's Best Colleges" guidebook, will hit the stands September 25.

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