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When the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education first published the College Best College 2021 Ranking list in 2017, Penn ranked fourth. This year, Penn fell to 13th place.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Penn fell nine places to No. 13 in the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education 2021 university ranking after placing fourth last year.

In the new rankings, Penn placed second to last among the eight Ivy League institutions — outranking only Columbia University, which placed 15th. Harvard University topped the list for the fourth straight year, while the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University rounded out the top three.

The WSJ/THE rankings evaluate colleges and universities in four categories: resources, outcomes, engagement, and environment.

Penn placed 11th in the resources category, which accounts for 30% of the final ranking. This category considers a university's finance per student, the number of faculty per student, and the number of research papers published per faculty member.

In the outcomes category, Penn ranked 14th. The category, which comprises 40% of the ranking, evaluates graduation rates, debt after graduation, academic reputation, and value added to graduate salary.

Penn placed much lower in the final two categories, ranking 92nd in engagement and 120th in environment. Student engagement makes up 20% of the ranking and environment — which measures diversity and inclusion among students and faculty — comprises 10% of the ranking. 

The rankings underwent several changes in methodology this year. WSJ/THE planned to survey students during the spring to measure engagement but believed that results obtained amid a sudden shift to online learning would not be accurate. As a result, the rankings used data obtained from last year for student engagement metrics.

Student inclusion, a subcategory of the environment category, normally takes the number of first-generation students and Pell Grant recipients into account. First-generation enrollment was previously measured using the College Scorecard, but because the College Scorecard stopped publishing this data, this year’s rankings only included Pell Grant data to measure student inclusion.

The rankings also previously used studies of salaries after graduation to measure colleges' value-added in salaries. The College Scorecard now only publishes data on salaries at a field-of-study level, so the rankings again used last year's data.

Penn ranked tenth in 2019, eighth in 2018, and fourth in 2017, the first year the rankings were published.

The U.S. News and World Report recently ranked Penn eighth for its 2021 Best National Universities rankings. Penn had placed sixth the previous year.

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