Kansas University fell a few notches in the annual U.S. News & World Report’s rankings released Wednesday.
KU ranked 106th among national universities, which is down from 101st last year, and 51st among public universities, down from 46th, according to the “Best Colleges 2013” list.
KU remained ahead of Kansas State, which was 139th and 70th, but universities such as Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa State, Colorado, Iowa, Texas, and Texas A&M; ranked higher than KU.
Leaders at KU sought to downplay the results, saying there was little change in overall scoring and that the rankings are based on indicators that may be several years behind.
Also, they said, KU’s Bold Aspirations plan, which is aimed at improving a key component of the rankings — graduation rates — will lead to a higher ranking soon.
“The priorities of Bold Aspirations — such as helping students be successful in their first year so they stay on track to graduate — are important factors in U.S. News’ rankings,” said KU Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter.
“So as we make changes in those areas, not only will we be improving the success of our students today, we’ll be setting KU up for higher rankings down the road,” Vitter said.
Vitter also said the rankings trail trends. “For example, the graduation rate in this year’s rankings is for students who came to KU between 2002 and 2005 — that’s a big lag,” he said. “It takes some time for changes we’re making now to be reflected in the rankings,” he said.
But KU noted that its School of Engineering is tied for 36th among public university engineering programs, up eight spots. The school is expanding to meet a shortage of engineers and will dedicate a new facility next month to interdisciplinary research on environmental sustainability.
The School of Business tied for 45th among public universities, which is down from 33rd. The school is undertaking a significant effort to revise curricula, start new programs and recruit additional faculty.
Graduate program rankings are released in the spring, and, in the most recent ones, KU’s special education and city management and urban planning received top rankings among public universities. Overall, 35 graduate programs are ranked in the top 40 among public institutions.
Harvard and Princeton tied for No. 1 in the national overall rankings, and University of California-Berkley and University of California-Los Angeles ranked first and second among public universities.
Schools were ranked using various data and research methods, including freshman retention, graduation rates and the strength of faculty. In addition, a number of academic indicators are analyzed, such as student selectivity, faculty resources, alumni giving and assessments by administrators at peer institutions. National universities, such as KU, are considered those that offer a full range of undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D programs and emphasize research.