Ranking moves up to No. 38

U.S. News & World Report rates KU better than last year

Kansas University moved up one spot to 38th in the 2008 rankings of public universities by U.S. News & World Report.

This is the second year the university’s ranking has climbed since reaching a low of 45th in the 2006 rankings.

The rankings, which hit newsstands Monday in the magazine’s annual “America’s Best Colleges” guide, are facing particularly vocal complaints this year from a group of colleges and educators working to develop an alternative to the system.

So far, the group led by education activist Lloyd Thacker has not formally enlisted any of the top-ranked schools. But the magazine has responded to one complaint: that the rankings punish schools for enrolling low-income students. For the first time this year, U.S. News is factoring the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants, financial aid from the U.S. government, into its calculation of a school’s “graduation rate performance.”

In announcing its ranking Thursday evening, KU also touted its profile in the Fiske Guide to Colleges. Kansas University is the only institution in the state included and is cited as a “best buy” because of its combination of academics, athletics and social life.

“Our peer score went up a tenth,” said KU spokesman Todd Cohen. “Generally, in rankings, we’re just glad to be mentioned. You don’t expect massive jumps overnight.”

The Fiske Guide this year also pointed out KU’s strong drawing power throughout the Midwest, saying it is double that of the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Princeton holds the top spot in the latest U.S. News & World Report college rankings. It’s the eighth straight year the private school has either tied or held the top slot outright.

Just like last year, Princeton was followed by Harvard at No. 2 and Yale at No. 3 in the controversial rankings. Stanford was No. 4, followed by Cal Tech and the University of Pennsylvania, which tied for fifth.

The formula for the rankings includes variables such as graduation and retention rates, faculty and financial resources, and the percentage of alumni donating money to their alma mater. The biggest single variable – and the most controversial – is a reputation assessment by peer institutions.