In the U.S. News and World Report rankings that came out Friday, Kansas University found itself ranked 85th among all national universities, but fifth among schools in the Big 12 Conference.
When Chancellor Robert Hemenway arrived in 1995, he set a goal of making KU a top 25 public university. Since reaching a high of 30th in the 1999 rankings, KU has floated around the 40 mark. Its lowest ranking was 45th in 2006. This year and in 2000, it was ranked 38th.
And while the rankings have a following, they've caused controversy. Some schools say the rankings are based on a formula that's too subjective.
"There are a lot of rankings out there, but it's better just to be noticed," said KU spokesman Todd Cohen. "I wouldn't focus a lot on what the digit is."
The university in recent years has shied away from touting the U.S. News rankings as much as before, though the goal remains on the chancellor's online biography page.
Instead, the school chooses to tout the Fiske Guide to College, which doesn't rank universities but lists them with their attributes. Fiske calls KU a "best buy."
Another report that garners a lot of appreciation at KU is a national research report that lauded KU for "effective educational practices." Issued in 2004, the study was part of the National Survey of Student Engagement conducted by Indiana University.
For academics, the scientific, quantitative research done in a survey like that carries far more weight than the U.S. News rankings, which are based in large part on "peer assessment," Cohen said.
And it seems that students have rejected the rankings as well.
"They really didn't factor in my decision," said Greg Hill, a senior from Nashville, Tenn. "I was interested in the prestige I perceived in the university, and the honors program here gave me that."
Several others agreed.
Cohen said that one of the best measures of KU's improvement in the past 10 years is in how much research the university conducts.
In 1997, KU spent $137 million in research, while in 2006, that number had risen to $292 million.