WU climbs three spots to 16th in new U.S. News & World Report rankings

Kimberly Buehler | Contributing Reporter

Washington University rose three spots to 16th place in the 2021 U.S. News & World Report rankings of the best universities nationwide, unveiled on the first day of classes, Sept. 14.

The University is tied for 16th with Rice University. Globally, the University rose one spot, putting it at 31.

Christine Watridge | Student Life

With their release of the rankings list, U.S. News & World Report mentioned several updates to their methodology that “address important issues directly impacting students and their families.”

Some of the most relevant updates included the addition of indicators measuring student debt and an increase in the importance of outcome measures, as well as a simultaneous reduction in the weight of standardized test scores, high school class rank and alumni giving.

Incoming freshmen in the class of 2024 were required to read the book Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil. One section of the book discussed the dangerous feedback loop within the college ranking system, primarily focused on the U.S. News & World Report, which was the first publication to release college rankings starting in 1983.

Freshman Matt Cummings agreed with O’Neil’s argument.

“While the rankings push colleges to excel, the items colleges are graded on favor wealthy and expensive schools that may not fit everyone’s needs and tend to push ‘lower ranked’ schools out of the public eye even if they may perfectly suit your needs,” Cummings said.

While he appreciated the University’s rise in the rankings, he said it was solely due to the advantages it would provide for job recruitment.

Freshman Shraya Sandhir pointed out that a high ranking does not mean every student will have a remarkable experience or that the University is the right place for them.

“While it is amazing that Wash. U.’s ranking has gone up recently, it does mean that the University must continue to match its new standing,” Sandhir said. “The position is based on the reputation and prestige of the school rather than the atmosphere and education that students experience.”

College of Arts & Sciences Dean Jennifer Smith said that she appreciated the increase in rankings and how well it reflects on the University, but that it did not mean the University does not have areas that need continued attention and improvement.

“Of course it feels good to see an improvement, but we should nevertheless still remember that there is a lot of arbitrariness in the way metrics were chosen and weighted to create the rankings,” Smith said. “There’s always more work to be done in improving our education, and we remain committed to progress in many areas, not just those measured by U.S. News.”

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