Washington University falls to 19th in US News rankings

Jayla Butler | Contributing Reporter

Washington University dropped one spot to 19th in the 2019 US News & World Report rankings of the best national universities, released Sept. 10.

The University shares the rank with University of California-Los Angeles. Globally, the University places 32nd.

Screen Shot 2018-09-17 at 10.41.13 AMGraphic by Christine Watridge

In the 2018 rankings, the University moved up from 19 to 18, tying with the University of Notre Dame. In 2016, the University was also ranked 19th after falling four spots.

To determine the rankings, U.S. News & World Report collects data from over 1,800 institutions nationwide and assigns each school points based on 16 measures of academic quality and then ranks them accordingly. As a result, many of the schools often end up with ties or very close scores.

According to Provost Holden Thorp, schools can appear far apart in the rankings when in reality, they’re very similar in quality.

“The level of granularity can be misleading—whether you’re [ranked] 19 or 18 is statistically meaningless,” Thorp said.

When unveiling the 2019 rankings, U.S. News & World Report announced a few changes to their ranking methodology, namely an increase in its emphasis on how well each school supports low-income students through graduation. While the University has made efforts in recent years to increase socioeconomic diversity and support for low-income students, any changes made can take years to show any effect in the rankings.

Freshman Ethan Copeland said that he thinks the University is currently in a growth period and that may reflect possible changes in rankings.

“I can only assume that the school is on the up and up,” Copeland said. “The more they build things and the more they improve the school, I’m not really concerned about the point drop because I think, overall, it’s on an upward trend.”

In any given year, the University often goes through a period of analyzing the data and the formula that generated this year’s specific ranking. While the University is continually looking for ways in which they can improve, College of Arts & Sciences Dean Jennifer Smith maintains that rankings are not the sole reason for any of the University’s operations.

“Our absolute ultimate goal is to provide a quality education for our students,” Smith said. “We never want to put too much emphasis on something solely for the purpose of a ranking that [wouldn’t] contribute directly to the quality of the educational experience.”

Freshman Maeve Hindenburg said that as a current student, the drop in rankings wasn’t a huge concern for her.

“Since we’re already here, I don’t think it affects me that much. I like the school a lot and just dropping one point isn’t that big of a deal,” Hindenburg said.

Overall, Thorp said that he believes the rankings paint the University in an accurate light and that despite any slight movements up or down, Washington University is still highly ranked.

“If schools are way up on this list, then they’re excellent schools—and we’re an excellent school,” Thorp said.

  • Jake Hwang

    It dropped a lot from the peak position, and that is a big deal. Stop being overly optimistic and start doing something.