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MIT Rises to Fourth In U.S. News Ratings

By Neena S. Kadaba

MIT ranked fourth among the nation's top undergraduate universities and colleges in the 1998 U.S. News and World Report rankings.

Harvard University, tied this year with Princeton University and Yale University, retained its top spot. Stanford University and MIT followed in a tie for fourth.

Next came Cornell University, Duke University, and the University of Pennsylvania, all in sixth. The California Institute of Technology placed ninth, and Brown University, Columbia University, Dartmouth College and Northwestern University tied for the tenth-place position.

The rankings used factors including academic reputation, student selectivity, faculty resources, retention rate, financial resources, alumni donations, and graduation rate in order to rank the universities.

President Charles M. Vest said he was pleased with the favorable rankings. It "shows that our peers view us very favorably and that we are strong in the various quantitative measures applied," he said.

MIT earned an overall score of 98 out of 100. The Institute was weaker in the areas of faculty resources, alumni giving, and class size.

However, MIT did very well in academic reputation, student selectivity, financial resources, standardized average scores, freshmen in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, and the faculty to student ratio, which was computed differently than past years.

Last year, MIT placed sixth in the survey. The Institute's rise in the rankings was partially caused by technical modifications to the scoring system.

The peer review categories changed this year and were rated on a scale running from 1, representing marginal accomplishment, to 5, labeled distinguished. U.S. News also changed the scheme for averaging reputation ratings and began measuring financial resources in terms of educational expenditures per student.

Some dissatisfaction remains

While the Institute's ranking improved, opposition to the rankings from student leaders continues.

"In 1996 we passed a resolution that denounced arbitrary and subjective findings," said Undergraduate Association President Paul T. Oppold '99.

The UA "asked the administration to stop participating in the ranking, but they did not," he said.

Vest acknowledged that he "continues to believe that the efforts to rank order very disparate institutions with hair-splitting differences isn't particularly meaningful or useful."

While many schools echoed this unhappiness with the report, last year's planned boycott of the report failed, as some felt there was an obligation for major universities to stay involved in the rankings, he said.

The report did stress several strengths to MIT's credit, and for that, Vest expressed his satisfaction, stating that he was "very pleased that MIT continues to be ranked in the very top handful of universities."