WU clocks in at No. 15, falls in national ratings

Alberto Farino | Contributing Reporter

College ranking season has arrived and Washington University is once again among the top 15 universities in the nation.

The recently published U.S. News & World Report National Universities tied the University in 15th place along with Vanderbilt University and Cornell University. This is one spot below from last year’s 14th place.

Washington University was also ranked No. 41 globally, according to the report. Other publications, such as Forbes, included the University in their annual rankings. The business magazine positioned the University No. 63 in its overall Top Colleges list, with the main criteria being based on cost of degree and its return on investment.

Chancellor Mark Wrighton said the rankings bode well for the school.

“I think we’re doing well in the rankings,” he said. “In absolute terms, I feel very good where we are in terms of our quality.”

The University was placed No. 8 in the Top Midwest Colleges list as well as No. 27 in the Grateful Grads ranking which focuses on alumni donations.

Other publications like The Princeton Review placed the University in different categories such as Best College Dorms (No. 2) and Best Campus Food (No. 8). These positions highlight the already-popular belief that Washington University offers some of the best on-campus housing and food among all colleges.

The University was also placed in the 20th spot for Best Financial Aid. This is a particularly significant position given that the school has been criticized, most notably by a New York Times article published earlier this year, as one of the least economically diverse top college in the nation.

Meanwhile, Niche ranked the University No. 8 in Best Colleges in the nation out of 892 schools. The website also placed the University at No. 1 in Best Dorms, No. 2 in Best Campus Food, No. 97 in Best Party Schools and No. 82 in Most Diverse Campus, among other categories.

Though these rankings receive heavy criticism in regards to their methodologies and accuracy, they are still popular in the academic community, often regarded as high recognitions by students and the University. Washington University, in fact, has an entire website dedicated to all the different media ranking positions in which they are placed (rankings.wustl.edu). From The Huffington Post to Seventeen Magazine, the University has appeared in previous years in numerous lists from media outlets.

“I think [rankings] are a little misguided. I think they need to be clear about their ranking methodology and exactly how much weight they’re giving to different particulars,” senior Kate Needham said. “I don’t have confidence that the people doing the rankings are necessarily weighing different things the same way I would.”

Wrighton believes rankings should not be seen as an absolute list of which school is better than the other.

“We’re on the top line of quality alongside a lot other institutions and trying to put them on a vertical list is a little misleading, I think,” he said. “We’re alongside institutions of great quality, and we’ve joined a group of institutions that are highly regarded in America.”

Jennifer Kraus-Smith, an administrative coordinator at the University, was surprised by the drop in ratings.

“I have no idea why we would drop,” Kraus-Smith said. “We have the biggest class ever, extraordinary people teaching and on staff. We have the best dining service and students have access on campus to just about anything they could want—a candy store, two bookstores, a free thrift store, numerous dining locations [and] a very successful sustainability office, just to name a few. I wouldn’t focus on the numbers so much.”

Additional reporting by Emily Schienvar and Laura Lee.

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