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U.S. News and World Report Ranks MIT Fourth in Nation

By Venkatesh Satish

MIT ranked fourth in the latest U.S. News & World Report's annual list of the best 25 schools in the nation.

The top three schools for the 1995 ranking were Harvard University, Princeton University, and Yale University, respectively. Stanford University was fifth, followed by Duke University and the California Institute of Technology. Dartmouth College, Columbia University, and the University of Chicago rounded out the top 10.

"It is gratifying to see that we are rated so high, since we are committed to excellence," said Provost Mark S. Wrighton.

However, he cautioned that the ranking should not be taken as an absolute evaluation though "it certainly encourages really outstanding people to think about MIT and shows that MIT is a very special place," he said.

The criteria used to evaluate the schools included student selectivity (which involved a study of acceptance rates, high school class standing, and test scores), academic reputation, faculty resources, graduation rate, financial resources, and alumni satisfaction.

Colleges received weighted scores in each category, and these were totaled to create overall scores, which were then ranked. Selectivity and reputation accounted for 25 percent, faculty resources 20 percent, graduation rate 15 percent, financial resources 10 percent, and alumni satisfaction weighed 5 percent.

MIT tied with Harvard and Stanford for best academic reputation, ranked fifth in student selectivity, and fourth in faculty resources. However, relatively low ranks of 13 and 23 in graduation rate and alumni satisfaction, respectively, slightly lowered the overall score.

The Institute's fourth-place ranking is the same as last year, but represents a steady rise from seventh place during the past four years.

Wrighton said that the list has a few important implications, but that he would place emphasis elsewhere.

"I think this report is a useful guide. The criteria used by U.S. News and World Report are important, but they are not the only ones we pay attention to. For example, one area that we have focused on that is not used by this report is the diversity of the student body," Wrighton said.

"Rather than the rankings, I would stress those areas which will bring benefit to both faculty and students, such as making sure that our world-class faculty is engaged with our world-class students," he added.

Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith expressed a similar opinion on the rating.

"The criteria used in this list are not the ones we would use in judging ourselves nor those that students use in deciding on a school. It is always nice to be at or near the top, but it would be a mistake to try to gear our efforts to achieve that," Smith said.

Smith said that the slight shifts in position over the last few years did not reflect real changes because the schools at the top are not separated by much.

Students feel rankings have slight problems

The overall reaction of the student body was somewhat mixed. Most people said that the rankings were valid, but criticized certain methods used in the ranking.

"It is not right to lump MIT with some of the other schools," said Richard Y. Lee '97. "I also have a problem with their student selectivity category. They ranked us fifth, even though we have a smaller applicant pool. Harvard, Princeton, and Yale get people who apply just for the sake of applying. Still, U.S. News is the most reliable set of rankings," Lee said.

"This report looks good statistically, but it doesn't tell you what it's like going to the school," said David D. Shue '98.

Other people did not really see the rankings as very important, although they found that the list did have some value.

Phillip J. Rowe '97 said, "It's fun to see MIT ranked fourth in the nation. These criteria are things that I looked at before coming here, but I wanted to be an engineer so this ranking didn't really matter to me."