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April 3, 2008

U.S. News ranks Pitt grad schools

Rankings for Pitt’s business and law schools declined while the education, engineering and medical schools held relatively steady in U.S. News & World Report’s latest list of the nation’s top graduate schools.

Each year, the magazine measures graduate programs in these five major disciplines, using quality indicators such as peer assessments, entering students’ test scores, faculty/student ratios and reputation ratings drawn from inside and outside academia.

Pitt ranked 69th in business (down from 51st last year) and tied for 73rd in law (tied for 57th last year). The University tied for 36th in education (tied for 35th last year), and ranked 48th in engineering (up from last year’s tie at 50th). Medicine was split into two rankings: Pitt’s medical school tied for 14th in research (tied for 15th last year) and tied for 20th in preparation of primary care physicians (tied for 18th last year).

Information on the five disciplines was published in the magazine’s April 7 edition, available on newsstands this week.

The magazine also produces an expanded supplement that includes more extensive listings, and top 10 rankings for subdisciplines and specialty program areas. In addition, U.S. News offers an expanded online edition of its rankings, with even more extensive listings. The online version is the source for this story.

The magazine produced new rankings of graduate health programs in audiology, clinical psychology, pharmacy, physical therapy, social work and speech-language pathology, as well as new rankings for master’s of public affairs and public policy and master’s of fine arts (art school) programs.

(This year, updated rankings of PhD programs in computer science, mathematics and physics also were included “to correct a problem with 2006’s survey that left some programs off the survey instrument,” according to the magazine. However, Pitt’s programs do not appear in these rankings.)

The magazine’s web site ( and expanded print version also include rankings of subdisciplines completed in previous years; only this year’s new rankings are summarized here.

U.S. News methodology

According to U.S. News, rankings are based on two types of data: expert opinion about program quality and statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school’s faculty, research and students. “These data come from surveys of more than 1,200 programs and some 14,000 academics and professionals that were conducted in fall 2007,” U.S. News stated.

To gather the opinion data, the magazine asked deans, program directors and senior faculty to judge the academic quality of programs in their field on a scale of 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding).

In the five disciplines, the magazine also surveyed professionals in the field who hire new graduates.

“The statistical indicators used in our rankings of business, education, engineering, law and medical schools fall into two categories: inputs, or measures of the qualities that students and faculty bring to the educational experience; and outputs, measures of graduates’ achievements linked to their degrees,” the magazine stated.

Depending on the field, output measures vary. For example, indicators in the business discipline include starting salaries after graduation and the time it takes graduates to find jobs. For law, indicators include state bar exam passing rates and how long it takes new attorneys to land jobs.

This year, the magazine modified its education school rankings. “After consulting with deans of leading graduate education schools, we improved the methodology by making it more oriented toward the research aspect of graduate education,” U.S. News stated.

The weights applied to the indicators reflect the magazine’s judgment about their relative importance, as determined in consultation with experts in each field. Every school’s performance is presented relative to comparable schools. Tied schools are listed alphabetically.

Like officials at other institutions, Pitt’s administration periodically has raised objections to the U.S. News rankings, particularly the magazine’s methodology, which it has said uses unscientific peer assessment, or reputational, survey data.

While higher education officials often object to the U.S. News rankings, public interest in the rankings continues: The rankings issues are among the magazine’s most-purchased issues.


The Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business was ranked 69th, according to Robert J. Morse, director of data research at U.S. News & World Report. Last year the school was 51st.

This year’s Katz school ranking is not posted in the online edition of the magazine, which listed only the top 62 schools plus ties, but was provided to the University Times upon request to U.S. News.

“In areas other than law, the magazine publishes the top half including ties of the number of schools that supply the data needed to calculate rankings using our methodology,” Morse told the University Times this week. He declined to reveal whether Pitt was tied for 69th or 69th alone. “We do not divulge unpublished information about a school except to the school’s representatives themselves,” Morse said.

All 425 master’s programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business were surveyed. Of these, 127 provided the necessary data, Morse said.

Quality indicators for business schools included overall academic quality assessment as determined by deans and directors of accredited MBA programs, as well as by corporate recruiters and company contacts who hired MBA graduates from previously ranked programs; job placement success (mean starting salary and employment rates for 2006 graduates), and student selectivity (GMAT scores, mean undergraduate GPAs and proportion of applicants accepted).

Asked why the Katz school had dropped from 51st to 69th, Morse said, “There were two main factors in the decline of the school: a decline in the job placement data, and a larger decline in the recruiter assessment data.”

According to Barry Kukovich, director of public relations at the Katz school, “If you look at the overall school scores in the U.S. News data table you’ll see how close they are to each other.”

Pitt’s composite score this year is 42 compared to 44 for those schools that tied for 62nd in the rankings, he noted, adding, “The difference of one or two points can skew a school’s ranking.”

One business specialty at Katz was ranked nationally by U.S. News. The school’s information systems specialty was tied for 18th (the same as last year) with Bentley College, out of the 19 programs listed in the online version.

Business specialty rankings were based solely on ratings by educators at peer schools. Business school deans and MBA program heads were asked to nominate up to 10 programs for excellence in each of 12 specialty areas.


Pitt’s School of Education tied for 36th (tied for 35th last year) with Rutgers, out of 127 education schools ranked online this year.

Of the 278 education schools granting doctoral degrees surveyed, 242 provided the data needed to calculate rankings, according to U.S. News.

Quality indicators for education schools included quality assessment by school deans and deans of graduate studies, as well as a 2007 survey of school superintendents nationwide in a sampling of districts; student selectivity (mean GRE scores of doctoral students entering in the 2007-08 academic year and acceptance rates); faculty resources (student-teacher ratio, percentage of full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty winning awards or holding journal editorships in 2006 and 2007, the number of doctoral degrees awarded to 2007 graduates); total school research expenditures (separately funded research, public and private, conducted by the school’s full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty, averaged over fiscal years 2006 and 2007) and, new this year, average research expenditures per full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty over fiscal years 2006 and 2007.

Pitt’s educational psychology/educational technology specialty was tied for 21st nationally (tied for 19th last year) with Nebraska-Lincoln and Nevada-Las Vegas among the 25 such specialty programs listed.

Specialty rankings were based on nominations by education school deans and deans of graduate studies from the list of schools surveyed. They selected up to 10 top programs in each of 10 areas.


Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering was ranked 48th nationally this year, up from a tie for 50th last year.

Programs at 198 engineering schools that grant doctoral degrees were surveyed; 192 provided the data needed to calculate rankings. U.S. News ranked the top 97 programs in its online edition.

Quality indicators for engineering schools included the same general indicators used for education schools, that is, quality assessment, student selectivity, faculty resources and research activity. Research activity was based on total externally funded engineering research expenditures, and research dollars per full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty member.

Pitt also had nine engineering specialty programs listed among the nation’s best by U.S. News. Those rankings were based solely on assessments in each specialty area by department heads, whose names came from the American Society for Engineering Education. The magazine listed 12 engineering specialties altogether.

Pitt’s specialty program in biomedical/bioengineering tied for 15th with the University of Virginia. Last year Pitt tied for 16th in this specialty. Fifty such programs were listed.

Pitt’s program in chemical engineering tied for 39th, down from a tie for 34th last year. Pitt tied with Case Western Reserve, Columbia, Lehigh, Rutgers, SUNY-Buffalo and Vanderbilt. A total of 58 specialty programs were listed.

Pitt’s civil engineering specialty, which tied for 60th last year, tied for 69th this year among 77 institutions listed. Pitt tied with the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Oklahoma State, Syracuse, Illinois-Chicago, Missouri-Columbia, Nebraska-Lincoln, North Carolina-Charlotte and Oklahoma.

Pitt’s computer engineering specialty tied for 57th among 76 such programs listed online. Pitt was unranked in this category last year. Pitt was tied with Auburn, Case Western Reserve, Clemson, Delaware, Drexel, Illinois, Iowa, Lehigh, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Oregon State, Polytechnic University, Syracuse, Tennessee-Knoxville and UC-Riverside.

Among 91 programs listed in the electrical/electronic/communications specialty area, Pitt tied for 60th (tied for 57th last year) with Colorado State, Drexel, Illinois-Chicago and Tennessee-Knoxville.

Pitt’s environmental/environmental health specialty in engineering this year tied for 58th (tied for 56th last year) with Illinois Institute of Technology, Utah and Vanderbilt, among 61 institutions listed.

In the industrial/manufacturing specialty category, Pitt was tied for 23rd (tied for 19th last year) among the 35 programs listed by the magazine’s online edition. Pitt tied with Iowa State, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and SUNY-Buffalo.

This year Pitt’s engineering materials specialty tied for 52nd (the same as last year) among the 55 programs ranked nationally by U.S. News. Pitt tied with Dartmouth, Cincinnati and Connecticut.

Among 81 specialty programs in mechanical engineering, Pitt’s program tied for 66th; last year it tied for 65th. Pitt tied with Auburn, Brigham Young, Colorado State, Kentucky, Utah and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.


For overall quality, Pitt’s School of Law was tied for 73rd (tied for 57th last year) with Lewis and Clark College, Kansas and Nebraska-Lincoln out of a total of 184 accredited law schools nationwide. The online edition ranked the top 100 schools plus ties.

Schools of law were assessed for quality as measured by two surveys conducted in fall 2007. The dean and three faculty members per school were asked to rate schools from “marginal” (1) to “outstanding” (5). Lawyers and judges also rated schools.

Other indicators were student selectivity (median LSAT scores, median undergraduate GPA and proportion of applicants accepted as students who entered in 2007); job placement success (employment rates for 2006 graduates at graduation and at nine months after graduation, as well as bar exam passing rate), and faculty resources (average 2006 and 2007 expenditures per student for instruction, library and supporting services; financial aid; 2007 student-teacher ratio, and total number of volumes and titles in the library).

According to U.S. News’s Morse, “Pitt’s law school fell due to small declines in many of its data points compared to the previous year.”

Those included small declines in assessment scores by lawyers and judges; percentage of graduates employed at graduation, and percentage of grads employed at nine months after graduation. There also was a change in student/faculty ratio, Morse said.

Pitt law school Dean Mary Crossley told the University Times she had some concerns with the U.S. News methodology. “For example, the data on judges’ and lawyers’ assessments are based on a survey with a very low percentage of return — a 26 percent response rate — and it counts for 15 percent of the ranking,” Crossley said. “Also, regarding the employment after graduation figures, there was a change from last year in the way the National Association of Law Placement calculated that. It used to be that those who were not actively seeking a job, for whatever reason, were not counted, and now they are — although presumably that would affect other schools as well. But with a graduating class of 216, a few people can make a difference.”

In addition, she said, a change in the methodology used by the American Bar Association, from which U.S. News takes its data on expenditures per student for instruction, library and supporting services averaged over two years, penalizes law schools at major urban institutions, such as Pitt. “We no longer can count as an expenditure those advantages that a city offers a law student in terms of exposure” to law proceedings, law firms and clinics as part of their training, Crossley said. “We’re just starting to feel the impact of that this year.”

She added, “We climbed up a few spots in last year’s rankings, and now we’ve dropped down. But, really, we’re right about where we’ve been on average over the last seven years or so.”

Nine law specialty areas also were ranked by U.S. News. The rankings were based on votes by law faculty who are listed in the AALS Directory of Law Teachers 2005-2006 as teaching in the specialty field, or by directors of clinical and legal writing programs. They named up to 15 of the best in each field.

In the health care law specialty, Pitt’s program ranked 13th (15th last year) among the 17 such programs listed.

Pitt ranked 28th (22nd last year) among the 30 intellectual property law specialty programs.


U.S. News issues two separate medical school rankings, one emphasizing research activity and the other a school’s preparation of primary care physicians.

Pitt’s School of Medicine tied for 14th (last year tied for 15th) in the research category among 63 medical schools listed. Pitt tied with UC-San Diego.

In the primary care preparation category, Pitt was tied for 20th (tied for 18th last year) among the 65 schools ranked in the online edition. Pitt tied with the University of Nebraska College of Medicine.

The magazine surveyed the 125 accredited medical schools plus 20 accredited schools of osteopathic medicine for both the research rankings and the primary care rankings; in each case, 126 schools provided the data needed to calculate the rankings.

Quality assessment indicators for both categories were based on peer assessment surveys of deans of medical and osteopathic schools, deans of academic affairs, heads of internal medicine and directors of admissions. The response rate was 48 percent.

In both categories those quality indicators included student selectivity (mean composite Medical College Admission Test score, mean undergraduate grade point average and the proportion of total applicants accepted for the class entering in 2007), and faculty resources (ratio of full-time faculty to students in 2007).

In the research category only, research activity was included in the rankings. It was defined as total dollar amount of National Institutes of Health research grants awarded to the medical school and its affiliated hospitals, and the average amount of those grants calculated per full-time medical school and clinical faculty member, both averaged for fiscal years 2006 and 2007.

In the primary care category, the magazine measured the percentage of graduates who entered primary care residencies in the fields of family practice, pediatrics and internal medicine, averaged over the past three graduating classes.

Among eight medical school specialties ranked by U.S. News, Pitt’s programs were ranked nationally in the same five areas as last year.

Pitt’s AIDS program tied for 20th with Case Western Reserve and Miami among 22 such programs listed in the magazine’s online edition. Last year, the program tied for 15th.

The geriatrics specialty at Pitt was ranked 11th (15th last year) among 18 programs listed.

Internal medicine tied for 21st (up from 22nd last year), among 24 schools listed. Pitt tied with Alabama-Birmingham and UC-San Diego.

The pediatrics specialty program tied for 16th with Duke (11th last year), among 22 programs listed nationally.

Pitt’s women’s health program ranked 4th (the same as last year) among 21 such programs listed.

Medical specialty rankings were based on ratings by deans and senior faculty at peer schools, who were asked to identify up to 10 schools offering the best programs in each of eight specialty areas.

Health disciplines

The health disciplines 2008 rankings in U.S. News were based on the results of peer assessment surveys sent in fall 2007 to deans, other administrators and/or faculty at accredited degree programs or schools in each discipline.

Respondents rated the academic quality of programs on a 5-point scale: outstanding (5 points); strong (4); good (3); adequate (2), or marginal (1), based on their assessment of the curriculum, faculty and graduates. They were instructed to select “don’t know” if they did not have enough knowledge to rate a program.

The programs listed here are ones in which Pitt was ranked in the 2008 national rankings by U.S. News, which posted online the top 25 plus ties in each discipline.

Pitt’s doctorate-level audiology discipline tied for 16th nationally with SUNY-Buffalo.

The doctorate-level clinical psychology program tied for 9th nationally among programs listed in the online edition. Pitt tied with Duke, Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, Iowa, Penn, Penn State and SUNY-Stony Brook.

The master’s/doctorate occupational therapy discipline at Pitt tied for 9th with NYU and the University of Washington.

Pitt’s PharmD pharmacy program tied Kansas for 19th nationally.

Pitt’s physical therapy master’s/doctorate program tied for 2nd nationally with Washington University in St. Louis.

The master’s program in social work tied for 14th nationally with Boston College, Penn and Virginia Commonwealth.

Pitt’s speech-language pathology master’s program tied for 12th nationally with Florida, Indiana, Memphis and Texas-Dallas.

Master’s of public affairs and public policy

Pitt’s program in public affairs tied for 27th nationally among the 90 schools plus ties that the online edition of U.S. News ranked in 2008. Pitt tied with Nebraska-Omaha and Virginia Tech.

The public affairs program rankings are based solely on the results of a peer assessment survey conducted in fall 2007. The rankings are based on responses of deans, directors and department chairs representing 269 master’s of public affairs and administration programs, two per school.

Respondents were asked to rate the academic quality of master’s programs on a scale of 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding). The response rate was 40 percent. Surveys were conducted by Synovate.

The lists of schools and individuals surveyed were provided by the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration and the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Four of Pitt’s public affairs specialty programs also were ranked nationally among the nine specialty areas that U.S. News ranked in 2008.

Pitt’s city management and urban policy specialty tied for 14th nationally with Rutgers, among 23 such programs ranked.

The public management administration program ranked 23rd nationally among 36 such programs listed online.

The public finance and budgeting specialty tied for 27th among 30 such programs. Pitt tied with Georgetown, Illinois-Chicago and Wisconsin-Madison.

Thirty-four programs in public policy analysis were ranked by U.S. News. Pitt tied for 30th with George Washington.

The specialty rankings are based solely on ratings by educators at peer schools. Public affairs schools deans and other academics were asked to nominate up to 10 programs for excellence in each specialty.

—Peter Hart

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