WPI Ranks Among the Top in U.S. News Rankings at 57th

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

[2001 Best College] Worcester, Mass. -- The wait is again over for the U.S. News & World Report 2001 annual rankings that were officially released today by the national magazine. WPI placed 57th among the 228 national universities (147 public and 81 private). The magazine's "America's Best Colleges," dated Sept. 11, listed WPI at the top of Tier 2. Princeton University was ranked first, followed by Harvard, Yale, Caltech and MIT. Last year Caltech took first place. The rankings can be found at www.usnews.com.

U.S. News evaluated more than 1,400 colleges in different categories. The rankings are based on several key measures of quality, according to U.S. News. The measures fall into seven broad categories and 16 subfactors. The seven categories are: academic reputation, from surveys at counterpart institution's presidents, provosts, and deans of admissions (25 percent); retention, freshmen retention and six-year graduation rate (20 percent); faculty resources, (20 percent); graduation & retention rate (20 percent); financial resources (10 percent); alumni giving (5 percent); and graduation rate performance, the difference between actual and predicted graduation rate) (5 percent). Scores for each measure are weighted to arrive at a final overall score. This year's methodology formula used the same measures and weights as last year, according to the magazine.

The magazine noted that its "ranking formula gives greatest weight (25 percent) to reputation because a degree from a distinguished college so clearly helps graduates get good jobs or gain admission to top graduate programs. The reputation survey also allows top academics to account for intangibles, such as faculty dedication to teaching. A school's reputation is determined by surveying the presidents, provosts, and deans of admission at institutions in a single category. Each individual was asked to rate peer schools' academic programs on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (distinguished). Those individuals who didn't know enough about a school to evaluate it fairly were asked to mark "don't know." Market Facts Inc., an opinion-research firm based near Chicago, collected the reputational data; 67 percent of the 3,969 people sent questionnaires responded."

The editors of U.S. News believe that students and their families should have as much information about the comparative merits of the educational programs at America's colleges and universities. They note that "this data serves as an objective guide by which students and their parents can compare academic quality of schools." Criticism of the annual rankings has raged for years by college administrators and faculty. The National Opinion Research Center recently noted that the rankings lack any defensible empirical or theoretical basis.

Some of the ranking information was released earlier in the week when copies of the rankings guidebook, "America's Best Colleges," were prematurely placed on store shelves in Ohio, Vermont and other U.S. locations.

WPI was among the top 26 national universities with the highest percentage of classes under 20 with 71 percent, tied with Brandeis and Princeton at 11th.

In another category, engineering schools, of which there are 114 on the list that offer Ph.D. degrees in engineering, WPI placed 50th, tied with five other universities; Colorado School of Mines, Rutgers, University of California at Irvine, University of Delaware and University of Massachusetts at Amherst. This ranking was based on judgment of deans and senior faculty who rated their counterpart programs. There was a 44 percent return rate on this survey.

Also on the U.S. News Web site were 16 Web exclusive rankings that ranged from most transfer students to highest graduation rate to most students over 25. WPI was included under a category of early decision deadlines at 71 percent.

Other college guides also include WPI. Among these are The Fiske Guide to Colleges 2001, the top-rated guide to the best colleges in America with 300 other colleges, and The Princeton Review, The Best 331 Colleges.