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April 30, 2009

U.S. News ranks graduate programs

Rankings for Pitt’s business, education, law and medical schools improved, while the engineering school’s ranking dipped slightly 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 60th in business (up from 69th last year), tied for 32nd in education (tied for 36th last year), and 71st in law (tied for 73rd last year).

Medicine was split into two rankings: Pitt’s medical school tied for 13th in research (tied for 14th last year) and tied for 17th in preparation of primary care physicians (tied for 20th last year).

Pitt ranked 49th in engineering (down from last year’s rank of 48th).
Information on the five disciplines was published in the magazine’s May 4 edition, available on newsstands this week.

The magazine also produces an expanded supplement that includes more extensive listings, and top 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.

This year, the magazine produced new rankings of graduate programs in library and information studies and the social sciences and humanities.

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

U.S. News also publishes annual rankings of undergraduate programs in August.

U.S. News methodology

According to U.S. News, rankings are based on two types of data: expert opinions 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 11,000 academics and professionals that were conducted in fall 2008,” U.S. News stated.

To gather the peer 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. For the first time, to compute the assessment scores of these professionals, the two most recent years’ surveys were averaged.

“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 exampassage rates and how long it takes new attorneys to land jobs.

This year, U.S. News modified its main law school rankings methodology. The rankings used the combined fall 2008 class admissions data for both full-time and part-time entering students for the median LSAT scores, median undergraduate grade-point averages and the acceptance rate in calculating the school’s overall ranking.

Previously, the U.S. News law school ranking methodology used only the full-time entering student data for those three admissions variables.

“This change improves the methodology because U.S. News is now comparing each law school’s entering class against every other’s based on the entire student body, which produces the most complete comparisons,” the magazine stated. “Since 1990, data for part-time JD students have been included in computing all the other statistical variables used in the U.S. News law school ranking methodology.” This year U.S. News ranked 87 part-time law programs separately.

The weights applied to each discipline’s 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 traditionally are among the magazine’s most-purchased issues.


The Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business was ranked 60th, according to Robert J. Morse, director of data research at U.S. News & World Report. Last year the school was 69th.

This year’s Katz school ranking is not posted in the online edition of the magazine, which listed only the top 55 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. “At No. 60, Pitt just missed being included.”

He declined to reveal whether Pitt was tied for 60th or 60th alone. “We do not divulge unpublished information about a school except to the school’s representatives themselves,” Morse said.

All 426 master’s programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business were surveyed. Of these, 118 provided the necessary data, according to the magazine.

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 2008 graduates), and student selectivity (GMAT scores, mean undergraduate GPAs and proportion of applicants accepted).

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 Purdue and UCLA, out of the 20 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 directors were asked to nominate up to 10 programs for excellence in each of 12 specialty areas.


Pitt’s School of Education tied for 32nd (tied for 36th last year) with George Washington University and Iowa, out of 126 education schools ranked online this year.

Of the 278 education schools granting doctoral degrees surveyed, 238 provided the data needed to calculate rankings, according to U.S. News.

Quality indicators for education schools included peer quality assessment by school deans and deans of graduate studies, as well as a 2008 survey of school superintendents nationwide in a sampling of districts; student selectivity (mean GRE scores of doctoral students entering in the 2008-09 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 2007 and 2008, the ratio of the number of doctoral degrees awarded in the school year 2007-08 to the number of full-time faculty members in 2007-08); total school research expenditures (separately funded research, public and private, conducted by the school) averaged over fiscal years 2007 and 2008, and average research expenditures per full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty over fiscal years 2007 and 2008.


Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering was ranked 49th nationally this year, down one spot from last year.

Programs at 198 engineering schools that grant doctoral degrees were surveyed; 189 provided the data needed to calculate rankings. U.S. News ranked the top 96 programs, including ties, in its online edition.

Quality indicators for engineering schools included the same indicators used for education schools: quality assessment, student selectivity, faculty resources and research activity.

Research activity was based on total externally funded engineering research expenditures averaged over FY07 and FY08, and research dollars per full-time faculty member averaged over FY07 and FY08.

Pitt also had eight 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 12th with Case Western Reserve, UC-Berkeley, Michigan-Ann Arbor and Virginia. Last year Pitt tied for 15th in this specialty. Fifty-two such programs were listed.

Pitt’s program in chemical engineering tied for 43rd, down from a tie for 39th last year. Pitt tied with Arizona, Arizona State, Case Western Reserve, Rutgers, Vanderbilt and Virginia Tech. A total of 65 specialty programs were listed.

Pitt’s civil engineering specialty, which tied for 69th last year, tied for 65th this year among 73 institutions listed. Pitt tied with Connecticut, Illinois-Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, Kansas, Nebraska-Lincoln, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Utah State.

Pitt’s computer engineering specialty tied for 48th (tied for 57th last year) among 75 such programs listed online. Pitt was tied with Boston University, Michigan State, SUNY-Stony Brook and Vanderbilt.

Among 89 programs listed in the electrical/electronic/communications specialty area, Pitt tied for 57th (tied for 60th last year) with Central Florida, Clemson, Colorado State, Drexel, Illinois-Chicago, Oregon State, UC-Riverside, Rochester, SUNY-Stony Brook, Tennessee-Knoxville and Utah.

In the industrial/manufacturing specialty category, Pitt tied for 21st (tied for 23rd last year) among the 36 programs listed by the magazine’s online edition. Pitt tied with Ohio State and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

This year Pitt’s engineering materials specialty tied for 49th (tied for 52nd last year) among the 50 programs ranked nationally by U.S. News. Pitt tied with Michigan State in this ranking.

Among 75 specialty programs in mechanical engineering, Pitt’s program tied for 58th; last year it tied for 66th. Pitt tied with Boston University, Dartmouth and Illinois Institute of Technology.


For overall quality, Pitt’s School of Law tied for 71st (tied for 73rd last year) with Loyola Marymount, Miami and Oklahoma 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 based on a weighted average of 12 measures from data collected in fall 2008 and early 2009. Law school deans, deans of academic affairs, chairs of faculty appointments and the most recently tenured faculty members were asked to rate programs on a scale from marginal (1) to outstanding (5). About 71 percent of those surveyed responded, according to the magazine.

Legal professionals, including the hiring partners of law firms, state attorneys general and selected federal and state judges, were asked to rate programs.

Other indicators were student selectivity (median LSAT scores, median undergraduate GPA and proportion of applicants accepted as students who entered in 2008); 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), and job placement success (employment rates for 2007 graduates at graduation and at nine months after graduation, as well as bar exam passing rate).

Employment rates for the 2007 graduating class determine success in the last category. In a change from how U.S. News calculated employment rates for the 2006 graduating class — where graduates who were unemployed and seeking employment, unemployed and not seeking employment and unemployed and studying for the bar all were counted as being unemployed — this year the magazine categorized schools’ unemployed students into either unemployed and seeking or unemployed and not seeking, which changed the calculations.

This year, graduates who were working or pursuing graduate degrees were considered employed. Employment rates were measured at graduation and nine months after graduation. Those who were unemployed and not seeking jobs were excluded from the calculations and were not counted as unemployed. Those who were unemployed and seeking work were counted as unemployed in the calculations of the employment rates.

Ten law specialty areas also were ranked by U.S. News. Specialty rankings are based solely on nominations by legal educators at peer institutions.

The rankings were based on votes by law faculty who are listed in the AALS Directory of Law Teachers 2007-2008 as teaching in the specialty field, or by directors of clinical and legal writing programs. They named up to 15 of the best programs in each field.

In the health care law specialty, Pitt ranked 12th (13th last year) among the 22 such programs listed.


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 13th (last year it tied for 14th) in the research category among 63 medical schools listed. Pitt tied with the University of Chicago.

In the primary care preparation category, the University tied for 17th (tied for 20th last year) among the 61 schools ranked in the online edition. Pitt tied with Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The magazine surveyed the 126 accredited medical schools plus 20 accredited schools of osteopathic medicine for both the research rankings and the primary care rankings.

For the research category, 120 schools provided the data needed to calculate the rankings; 119 schools provided the data needed to calculate the primary care ranking.

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 2008), and faculty resources (ratio of full-time faculty to students in 2008).

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 2007 and 2008.

In the primary care category, the magazine measured the proportion of graduates who entered primary care specialties, such as family practice, pediatrics and internal medicine, averaged over the past three graduating classes.

Among eight medical school specialties ranked by U.S. News, five of Pitt’s programs were ranked nationally.

Pitt’s AIDS program was ranked 16th among 20 such programs listed in the magazine’s online edition. Last year, the program tied for 20th.

Pitt’s drug and alcohol abuse specialty was ranked 15th this year of 15 such specialties nationally; the program was unranked last year.

The geriatrics specialty at Pitt was ranked 10th (11th last year) among 20 programs listed.

Internal medicine tied for 15th (up from tied for 21st last year), among 24 schools listed. Pitt tied with Alabama-Birmingham, Mayo Medical School and Vanderbilt.

The pediatrics specialty program was ranked 11th (tied for 16th last year), among 21 programs listed nationally.

Pitt’s women’s health program ranked 3rd (up from 4th last year) among 20 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.

Library and information studies

Overall, Pitt’s program in library and information sciences (referred to as information studies in the magazine) tied for 10th nationally with Maryland-College Park, Simmons College and Wisconsin-Madison.

U.S. News ranked 50 master’s degree programs in the United States that are accredited by the American Library Association. The rankings are based solely on the results of a fall 2008 survey sent to the dean of each program, the program director and a senior faculty member in each program.

Questionnaires asked individuals to rate the academic quality of programs at each institution as outstanding (5), strong (4), good (3), adequate (2) or marginal (1). Scores for each school were totaled and divided by the number of respondents who rated that school. The response rate was 56 percent.

Specialty rankings are based solely on the nominations of program deans, program directors and a senior faculty member at each program. They were asked to choose up to 10 programs noted for excellence in each specialty area. Those with the most votes are listed online.

Several of Pitt’s specialty programs ranked nationally among the seven areas ranked by the magazine.

The archives and preservation specialty tied for 2nd among the nine programs listed. Pitt tied with Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Pitt ranked 1st nationally in the health librarianship specialty. Five such programs were listed.

In the services for children and youth specialty, Pitt ranked 10th among the 14 programs listed.

Among 13 programs listed in the digital librarianship specialty, Pitt ranked 12th.

Pitt ranked 6th among 10 specialty programs listed in the information systems specialty area.

In the school library media specialty, Pitt tied for 8th with Hawaii-Manoa. Fourteen such programs were listed in the online edition.

Social sciences and humanities

Pitt’s economics program tied for 39th nationally with Arizona and Arizona State. The online edition ranked 55 such programs.

Pitt’s graduate program in English was tied for 35th nationally with Maryland-College Park and Minnesota-Twin Cities among the 94 programs, plus ties, that are ranked by the magazine.

The University’s history program tied for 42nd among the 100 like programs ranked by the magazine. Pitt tied with Arizona, UC-Irvine, UC-Santa Barbara, Southern California and William and Mary.

In political science, Pitt tied for 39th among the top 61 programs ranked nationally. Pitt tied with Colorado-Boulder, Florida State, George Washington, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt.

Pitt’s psychology program tied for 36th with programs at Arizona State, Emory and Oregon. The magazine ranks the top 177 (including ties) programs.

Among the 71 sociology programs ranked this year, Pitt tied for 54th with Purdue-West Lafayette and UC-Santa Cruz.

—Peter Hart

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