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MIT ranked seventh in college survey

By Prabhat Mehta

MIT dropped from fifth to seventh this year among "national universities" in US News & World Report magazine's annual "America's Best Colleges" survey.

The criteria behind the rankings this year were primarily objective ones. These included: student selectivity, which in turn was based on applicant rejection rates, standardized test scores and high-school class standing; faculty quality, based on student/faculty ratios, percentage of faculty with doctorates and per-student instructional budgets; financial resources, based on per-student endowment income, per-student library budget and, where applicable, total per-student funding from state and local governments; and retention patterns, based on average percentage of freshmen who became sophomores and average number of freshmen who graduate with a bachelor's degree within five years.

In addition, the magazine polled college presidents, academic deans and admissions officers in order to rank schools on the basis of academic reputation.

Although refinements have been made to the the ranking system, the basic criteria remain unchanged.

MIT ranked second in academic reputation and fourth in student selectivity, the two most important criteria in the survey. (These two attributes were given twice the weight in the overall ranking as the other three listed above.)

These rankings, however, were not high enough to compensate for the relatively low rankings in the other three criteria. The Institute ranked eighth in faculty quality, 13th in retention patterns and 45th in financial resources.

MIT was one of 204 schools categorized by US News as national universities. According to the magazine, they were grouped together because "they offer a full range of baccalaureate programs, give a high priority to research and award the most PhD's each year." The other universities and colleges in the survey were classified as national liberal-arts colleges, regional colleges and universities, regional liberal-arts colleges or specialized institutions. Comparisons were made only among those schools which belonged to the same category.

Changes in "methodology and in the categories" make this year's categories incompatible with those in previous years, the magazine says.

The universities which received higher ratings than MIT were, in order from first to sixth, Yale University, Princeton University, Harvard University, California Institute of Technology, Duke University, and Stanford University.