U.S. News changes ranking criteria, CMU among many that dropped

U.S. News just updated their college ranking criteria and Carnegie Mellon is no longer No. 22 in the country nor first for computer science. Instead, Carnegie Mellon placed 24th nationally, fourth for gradate computer science and second for undergraduate computer science.

Taking the lead for graduate computer science are MIT, Stanford, and UC Berkeley, all of which tied for first place. For undergraduate computer science, MIT is now the only first place while Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, and University of California, Berkeley hold joint second place. However, Carnegie Mellon was not the only school to fall; in fact, many schools suffered with this change of systems. National notables include The University of Chicago dropping from No. 6 to No. 12 and Tulane University going from their spot in No. 44 to No. 73.

Undergraduate business programs dropped from No. 5 to No. 7. Undergraduate engineering programs at Carnegie Mellon are now ranked No. 8 as opposed to a year earlier where they were at No. 7.

The school didn’t just drop; it also improved in some disciplines; CMU went from No. 6 in Undergraduate Best Research and Creative Projects to No. 2. In Undergraduate Electrical/Electronic/Communications Engineering they secured a place at No. 6, rising from their previous No. 8 spot.

With a new ranking system causing private universities to drop significantly and public universities to soar, it is no shock there has been a surge of opinions from journalists and universities alike.

The new ranking system incorporated several new factors. Some of those new factors include: first-generation graduation rates, first-generation graduation rate performance, proportion of college graduates earning more than a high school graduate, citations per publication, field-weighted citation impact, the share of publications cited in the top five percent and 25 percent of the most cited journals by CiteScore.

Five factors were eliminated: proportion of graduates who borrowed federal loans, high school class standing, alumni giving rate, terminal degree faculty, and class size.

This ranking criteria listed above totaled 18 percent out of 100 percent and played a part in Carnegie Mellon's overall rankings, as the school tended to do quite well in these categories.

The exact weightings of each category is listed on the U.S. News website, with the heaviest weight being on graduation rates with 21 percent — though only for universities without usable SAT/ACT scores. It is only weighted 16 percent for schools who have usable SAT/ACT scores. Following shortly behind is peer assessment being weighed at 20 percent for both categories.

It isn’t solely about the ranking, Carnegie Mellon's Institutional Research and Analysis Director Melissa Baker explained, but rather the score too. She does not find the drop in ranking to be cause for alarm.

Even though the ranking dropped, the overall score Carnegie Mellon received was higher than last year, going from an 81 to an 84. This can be credited to the improvement across many of the ranking criteria. For example, Carnegie Mellon saw improvement in the areas of six year graduation rate and student federal debt upon graduation.

It was a close race, Baker explained. “It’s also worth mentioning that had our overall score been one point higher, we would have been ranked 22nd, tied with Georgetown and UNC Chapel Hill. We are certainly used to bouncing around in the rankings from year-to-year and all things considered, feel that we fared well this year.”

Carnegie Mellon performed remarkably better than most other private universities, who dropped an average of 12 spots contrasting the public universities, who rose an average of 10.

Carnegie Mellon is no longer ranked first in computer science. “Dropping one spot from #1 to #2 had nothing to do with the continuing high quality of our outstanding Computer Science department, as far as data goes. U.S. News does not provide the level of detail we need to know what caused this shift,” Baker said.

What is known is that specialty rankings come from deans and senior faculty from across the nation, specifically in the discipline they teach. Thus, the computer science program was surveyed by deans and senior faculty from national computer science programs. This does not give much insight, though, as to why Carnegie Mellon fell behind other universities.

Baker noted that U.S. News has received criticism over the past few years as to how their ranking system is formulated and said she is glad they are accommodating their feedback.

“Regardless of how the U.S. News and World Report ranks us, our investments in our students, their educational experience, access and affordability continue to be our top priority,” Baker said.