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September 2, 2004

Pitt Moves up 1 Place in U.S. News Rankings

Pitt tied for 66th among the nation’s Ph.D.-granting universities, and tied for 26th among such public universities, in the U.S. News & World Report’s 21st annual “best colleges” rankings. Pitt’s placement is up one spot in each case from last year.

Tied with Pitt in the 26th slot among public institutions were the universities of Connecticut, Delaware and Minnesota – Twin Cities.

The same four institutions tied for 66th among all doctorate-granting national universities, 248 schools in all (162 public, 86 private).

Three years ago Pitt ranked 39th on the U.S. News list for publics, while two years ago the University was ranked 31st.

Last year Pitt ranked 67th overall; in the previous two years, Pitt finished in the second tier, Nos. 50 – 125 plus ties, which the magazine listed alphabetically.

The top spot among all such schools this year was jointly held by Harvard and Princeton, with Yale ranked 3rd, the same as last year.

The University of California-Berkeley held the top spot among the publics at No. 21 overall, followed by the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor and the University of Virginia, which tied for second among the public universities and for 22nd among all institutions.

Pennsylvania institutions ranked among the top 50 national universities/doctoral were the University of Pennsylvania (4th overall), Carnegie Mellon (tied for 22nd), Lehigh University (tied for 37th) and Penn State University (tied for 50th).

The overall college ratings were published in the Sept. 1 issue of the magazine in abridged form. Undergraduate business and engineering programs, as well as certain specialty areas and programs, ranked by U.S. News 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 national institutions (935 private, 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 by U.S. News 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 three years ago by U.S. News. The magazine has ranked colleges annually since 1983.


U.S News annually gathers data from the institutions. According to the magazine, 95.2 percent of the schools returned surveys supplying data for this year’s rankings. Missing data are drawn from national sources such as the American Association of University Professors and the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics.

The rankings for national universities/doctoral are derived 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 (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 1997 and the predicted rate for that class; the predicted rate is calculated using a formula that accounts for the standardized tests scores of 1997-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 59 percent, while the actual count was 65 percent, according to the magazine.

Selected rankings
• Pitt’s Johnstown campus again was ranked 3rd 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 in professional fields such as business, nursing and education, with liberal arts accounting for fewer than half of the bachelor’s degrees awarded.

Nationally, U.S. News ranks 324 public and private comprehensive colleges/bachelor’s, divided by four regions of the country. In the northern region there are 69 schools (14 public, 55 private) in this category. Overall, Pitt-Johnstown ranked in the third tier, Nos. 36 – 52, which the magazine lists alphabetically.

The top spot in the northern region for all comprehensive colleges/bachelor’s was maintained by Stonehill College, a private institution in Massachusetts. The top public school was Ramapo College of New Jersey, which was ranked tied for 9th overall.

• Undergraduate business and engineering programs on the Pittsburgh campus also were ranked nationally by U.S. News and World Report. Among the 375 accredited undergraduate business programs nationally, Pitt’s undergrad business program finished tied for 38th (tied for 23rd among public universities).

Carnegie Mellon’s business program tied for 6th; Penn State’s program tied for 20th in the overall rankings. Penn’s Wharton business school held the top spot overall in this category.

To arrive at the rankings, U.S. News surveyed deans and senior faculty at undergraduate business programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Participants were asked to rate the quality of all programs they are familiar with on a scale of 1 (marginal) to 5 (distinguished). The rankings are based solely on this peer survey; 46 percent of those surveyed responded.

• Among the 145 accredited undergraduate engineering programs for universities that grant Ph.D.s, Pitt’s program tied for 60th with 13 other institutions; it tied for 33rd with 11 other schools among public universities.

Carnegie Mellon finished tied for 8th and Penn State tied for 16th overall in the engineering program rankings.

Undergrad engineering programs are ranked solely on the judgments of surveyed deans and senior faculty who rated each program they are familiar with. Sixty percent of those surveyed responded, according to the magazine.

• In addition, U.S. News included Pitt this year among “programs to look for,” which lists “outstanding examples of academic programs that are believed to lead to student success.”

Pitt is among institutions of higher learning nationwide that excel in their “writing in the disciplines” undergraduate programs. According to the magazine, “These colleges typically make writing a priority at all levels of instruction and across the curriculum.” Fifteen other institutions nationally were similarly recognized.

• Pitt improved from 8th to 12th among national public universities in the category of “most debt” incurred by its graduates.

U.S. News annually ranks institutions using data drawn from the universities themselves, financial institutions, and from federal, state and local governments. The data indicate 1) what percentage of the student body has taken on debt at graduation, and 2) the “average amount of debt,” that is, the average cumulative amount borrowed by those students who incurred debt, not the average for all students.

Sixty percent of Pitt 2003 graduates incurred debt (the same as last year’s data), averaging $20,154 (also the same as last year). Pitt was ranked 45th among all institutions on the “most debt” list, improving from 27th overall last year.

Temple, with 69 percent of its students incurring an average of $22,041, was 4th among public universities and 29th overall; CMU (52 percent, $21,235) finished 37th on the “most debt” list. Penn (43 percent, $19,579) was 57th among all national schools. Penn State (70 percent, $18,200) was 82nd overall and 36th among public universities.


A comparison of select Pennsylvania institutions
• Acceptance rate: Pitt accepted 46 percent (down from 55 percent in last year’s U.S. News data) of its applicants for fall 2003’s entering class (of 17,494 total applicants); Penn State, 55 percent (31,264 applicants); Carnegie Mellon, 38 percent (14,447 applicants); Temple, 60 percent (16,758 applicants); the University of Pennsylvania, 20 percent (18,831 applicants); Lehigh University 40 percent (9,087 applicants).

(The most selective institutions nationally were Princeton and Harvard, with a 10 percent acceptance rate.)

• Student to faculty ratio: Pitt, 16:1; Penn State, 17:1; CMU, 11:1; Temple, 18:1; Penn, 6:1; Lehigh, 10:1.

• The average six-year graduation rate: Pitt graduated 65 percent of its 1997 entering students within six years (up from 55 percent of 1996 entering students); Penn State, 82 percent; CMU, 81 percent; Temple, 54 percent; Penn, 92 percent; Lehigh, 86 percent.

(The top spot was held by Harvard at 98 percent.)

• Pitt’s retention rate of fall 2003 entering freshmen: 87 percent (same as 2002 data), compared to Penn State’s 92 percent, CMU’s 94 percent, Temple’s 80 percent, Penn’s 97 percent and Lehigh’s 93 percent.

• Pitt’s percentage of classes under 20 students is 42 percent (40 percent using 2002 data); Penn State’s is 30 percent, CMU’s is 65 percent, Temple’s is 36 percent, Penn’s is 92 percent and Lehigh’s is 86 percent.

• Pitt’s percentage of classes with 50 or more students is 17 percent (same as 2002 data), while Penn State’s percentage is 20 percent, Carnegie Mellon’s percentage is 9 percent, and Temple’s, Penn’s and Lehigh’s all are 7 percent.

• The Pitt alumni giving rate is 16 percent (same as 2002 data); Penn State’s giving rate is 20 percent, Carnegie Mellon’s is 25 percent, Temple’s is 9 percent, Penn’s is 39 percent and Lehigh’s is 40 percent.

-Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 37 Issue 1

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