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September 26, 2002

Pitt moves up in U.S. News rankings

Pitt tied for 31st among the nation's Ph.D.-granting public universities in the U.S. News & World Report's annual rankings, up eight spots from last year.

Tied with Pitt in the 31st slot among public institutions were Michigan State University, SUNY-Binghamton, the University of Colorado-Boulder and the University of Connecticut.

The University of California-Berkeley got the top spot among the publics.

In a separate U.S. News & World Report ranking of all doctorate-granting national universities, 249 schools in all (162 public, 87 private), Pitt again this year finished in the second tier, numbers 52-129, which the magazine lists alphabetically.

The overall college ratings were published in the Sept. 23 issue of the magazine in abridged form. Undergraduate business and engineering program rankings are posted at the magazine's web site: The extended rankings lists, which were the source for this story, can be purchased on-line at the web site.

Kinds of institutions U.S. News breaks down the nation's 1,444 institutions (935 private and 509 public) into several categories: "national universities — doctoral," "national liberal arts colleges — bachelor's," "regional universities — master's" and "regional comprehensive colleges — bachelor's."

National universities — doctoral are defined as those that offer a "full range of undergraduate majors, as well as master's and doctoral degrees; many strongly emphasize research." The categories, developed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, were adopted last year by U.S. News. The magazine has ranked colleges annually since 1983.

Methodology The rankings for national schools are derived and weighted from a comparison of seven indicators: academic reputation based on peer assessment (25 percent of total score), graduation and retention rates (20 percent), faculty resources (20 percent), student selectivity (15 percent), financial resources (10 percent), alumni giving rate (5 percent) and graduation rate performance (5 percent).

The last indicator, graduation rate performance, is defined as the difference between a school's six-year graduation rate for the class that entered in 1995 and the predicted rate for that class; the predicted rate is calculated using a formula that accounts for the standardized tests scores of 1995-entering students and the school's expenditures on the students.

If the actual graduation rate is higher than the predicted rate, the school is judged to have enhanced the students' achievement. For example, Pitt's predicted six-year graduation rate was 54 percent, while the actual count was 62 percent, according to the magazine.

Selected rankings Pennsylvania institutions ranked among the top 50 national universities — doctoral were the University of Pennsylvania (tied for 4th with California Institute of Technology, Duke University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University), Carnegie Mellon (tied for 21st with Vanderbilt University), Lehigh University (tied for 40th with Boston College and Yeshiva University, NY) and Penn State University (tied for 46th with the University of California-Irvine).

The top spot overall was held by Princeton, with Harvard and Yale tied for 2nd, the same as last year.

Pitt's Johnstown campus was ranked 5th in the northern region among public schools in the sub-category of comprehensive colleges — bachelor's, that is, those public institutions that focus on undergraduate education and offer a range of degree programs, with liberal arts accounting for fewer than half of the bachelor's degrees awarded.

There are 324 public and private comprehensive colleges — bachelor's, ranked by four regions of the country. In the northern region there are 69 schools (15 public, 54 private) in this category. Last year Pitt-Johnstown ranked 4th among the public schools.

The overall top spot in the northern region was held by Stonehill College, a private institution in Massachusetts.

Undergraduate business and engineering programs on the Pittsburgh campus also were nationally ranked by U.S. News and World Report.

There are 350 accredited undergraduate business programs nationally. Pitt's business program finished tied for 35th (tied for 20th among public universities) among the 148 programs ranked by U.S. News.

Carnegie Mellon's business program ranked tied for 7th; Penn State's program ranked tied for 18th.

Among the 183 accredited undergraduate engineering programs for universities that grant Ph.D.s as their highest degree, Pitt's program tied for 61st with 11 other institutions; it tied for 31st with eight other schools among public universities.

Carnegie Mellon finished tied for 7th and Penn State ranked tied for 15th overall in the engineering program rankings.

Some other U.S. News lists that include Pitt

* Acceptance rate Pitt accepted 60 percent of its applicants for fall 2001's entering class (of 15,438 total applicants); Penn State, 57 percent (28,100 applicants); Carnegie Mellon, 31 percent (16,696 applicants). The most selective institution was Harvard, with an 11 percent acceptance rate (19,014 applicants).

* Six-year graduation rate Pitt graduated 62 percent of its 1995 entering students within six years; CMU, 79 percent; Penn State, 81 percent. The top spot was held by Princeton at 97 percent.Pitt

* Campus diversity (as measured by the total proportion of minority undergraduate students — Native Americans, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, non-Hispanic African Americans, and Hispanics — not counting international students, drawn from an institution's 2001-2002 student body. The magazine uses a diversity index ranging from 0.0 to 1.0, with higher scores indicating a more diverse population.) Pitt's diversity index score is .27 (with African Americans making up the largest percentage of minorities among the student population at 9 percent); Penn State's index score is .24 (Asian Americans were the largest minority group at 5 percent); CMU's score is .50 (Asian Americans made up 24 percent of the student population).

The two most diverse student populations according to the magazine are Rutgers (Asian Americans, 20 percent) and the University of Houston (Asian Americans 21 percent), tied with a diversity index score of .72.

* Student debt incurred The magazine divided national universities — doctoral into two lists, "most debt" and "least debt," that is, lists of the schools whose 2001 graduates carried the heaviest and lightest loads of incurred debt upon graduation.

The data include loans taken out by students from the colleges themselves, from financial institutions, and from federal, state and local governments. Parents' loans are not included.

The first number in the data below indicates what percentage of the student body has taken on debt. The second number, labeled "average amount of debt," is the average cumulative amount borrowed by those students who incurred debt, not the average for all students.

Pitt ranked on the "least debt" list. The percentage of Pitt 2001 grads with debt is 60 percent, with the average cumulative amount of those graduates of $16,000 (109th highest among the 162 public universities nationally).

Carnegie Mellon and Penn State ranked on the "most debt" list. CMU had 55 percent of grads with incurred debt, averaging $18,280; PSU had 66 percent of grads with incurred debt, averaging $17,450 (27th highest among the 162 public universities).

The most debt on average was for Pepperdine grads (68 percent — $28,000), while the least debt was for Yeshiva University (NY) (32 percent — $7,977).

Other data

*Pitt's retention rate of fall 2001 entering freshmen: 86 percent, compared to Carnegie Mellon's 92 percent and Penn State's 93 percent.

* Pitt's undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 17:1, while CMU's is 10:1 and Penn State's is 18:1.

* Pitt's percentage of classes under 20 students is 39 percent; Penn State's is 32 percent, and CMU's is 69 percent.

*Pitt's percentage of classes with 50 or more students is 17 percent, the same as Penn State's. Carnegie Mellon's percentage is 8 percent.

* The Pitt alumni giving rate is 16 percent, with Penn State's and Carnegie Mellon's giving rate of 21 percent and 28 percent, respectively.

–Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 35 Issue 3

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