KU improves two spots to 58th among public universities in U.S. News & World Report rankings

photo by: Mike Yoder/Journal-World Photo

Sitting on top of the Kansas Jayhawk logo on the Memorial Stadium field Sunday, May 23, 2021, University of Kansas graduates participate in a graduation honoring both KU's Class of 2020 and Class of 2021.

This story was updated at 7:55 p.m. Monday.

The University of Kansas improved two spots in the closely-watched university rankings from U.S. News & World Report, which published its 2022 edition on Monday.

KU moved up two spots to No. 58 among public universities. KU also advanced two spots to No. 122 among all universities, public and private.

KU continues to be the top-ranked university in the state, and now is tied for fourth among current members of the Big 12 Conference. However, KU is tied for last among the 36 public schools that are members of the prestigious Association of American Universities.

“We recognize the importance of these rankings, particularly among prospective students and families,” Chancellor Douglas Girod said in the release. “At the same time, we remain focused on a broader set of metrics to measure our success. We continue to refine these metrics through our Jayhawks Rising strategic planning process.”

As the state’s flagship university, KU consistently has been the highest-ranking Kansas school in the U.S. News & World Report publication. Kansas State ranked No. 162 among all public and private schools in the report, while Wichita State did not get a specific ranking, but rather was placed in tier between No. 299 and 391 in the overall ranking of public and private schools. The state’s smaller public universities — such as Emporia State, Fort Hays State and others — were not included in the ranking, which measured “national universities.”

KU’s spot in the rankings among fellow Big 12 members has varied over the years, but the school landed in the top half of the conference with the latest rankings. Its overall ranking of No. 122 tied it with Iowa State University. Here’s a look at the complete Big 12 rankings. The numbers are overall rankings for public and private schools, as the conference has two private school members — Baylor and TCU. Those two schools both ranked ahead of KU, meaning KU was tied for second in the conference among public institutions.

• Texas: No. 38

• Baylor: No. 75

• TCU: No. 83

• Iowa State: No. 122

• KU: No. 122

• Oklahoma: No. 127

• Kansas State: No. 162

• Oklahoma State: No. 187

• Texas Tech: No. 213

• West Virginia: No. 249

Oklahoma and Texas have both announced plans to leave the Big 12, and the conference last week announced BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston plan to join the conference in future years. BYU finished No. 79; Cincinnati and Central Florida tied for No. 148 and Houston finished No. 179.

KU ranked much lower, though, on a list that has started to capture the attention of faculty and other university community members. KU is one of the longest-serving members of the Association of American Universities, which is an invitation-only organization designed to recognize the top research universities in the country.

AAU leaders have never indicated that U.S. News & World Report rankings play any role in how the AAU chooses which schools to add or drop from its membership rolls. But nonetheless some faculty members have expressed increasing concern over the years that KU’s membership in the organization could be at risk. Those concerns have ebbed and flowed since the University of Nebraska, a once longtime member, lost its status in the AAU in 2011, although several of the factors leading to Nebraska’s dismissal don’t exist at KU. It has been reported that Nebraska suffered in the AAU evaluation because Nebraska’s medical school is not connected to its flagship university and because a high percentage of its research was on agricultural subjects less likely to be peer-reviewed.

The Journal-World gathered the rankings of the 36 American, public institutions in the AAU on Monday afternoon. The newspaper forwarded the rankings to KU with questions about its thoughts on KU’s standing in the rankings compared to other AAU members, and whether KU had set any specific goals about where KU should rank compared to other AAU members. However, a KU spokeswoman had not responded as of early Monday evening.

KU’s overall ranking of No. 122 finished with Iowa State and the University of Missouri among 36 public schools that are part of the AAU. The average public school in the AAU ranked about twice as high as KU. The average of the rankings of the 36 public schools came in at about 63, compared to KU’s 122 ranking.

Here’s a look at the rankings of the public AAU schools: UCLA, No. 20; California-Berkeley, No. 22; Michigan, No. 23; Virginia, No. 25; Florida, No. 28; North Carolina, No. 28; California-Santa Barbara, No. 28; California-San Diego, No. 34; California-Irvine, No. 36; Georgia Tech, No. 38; Texas, No. 38; California-Davis, No. 38; Wisconsin, No. 42; Illinois, No. 47; Ohio State, No. 49; Purdue, No. 49; Maryland, No. 59; Washington, No. 59; Pittsburgh, No. 59; Penn State, No. 63; Rutgers, No. 63; Indiana, No. 68; Texas A&M, No. 68; Minnesota, No. 68; Michigan State, No. 83; Iowa, No. 83; Stony Brook, No. 93; Buffalo, No. 93; Colorado, No. 99; Oregon, No. 99; Utah, No. 99; California-Santa Cruz, No. 103; Arizona, No. 103; Iowa State, No. 122; KU, No. 122; Missouri, No. 122.

Over the years, KU has placed different levels of importance on the U.S. News and World Report rankings, In 2002, then-Chancellor Robert Hemenway set a goal for KU to be a top 25 public university in the rankings by 2010. At the time KU was ranked No. 41. In subsequent years, KU got a ranking of No. 39, and back in 1998 it was ranked as No. 30, according to past Journal-World articles.

After Hemenway’s tenure, however, KU chancellors have not set such specific goals related to the U.S. News & World Report rankings, but have said they are important factor in getting the attention of potential students.

For this year’s report, KU said that in recent years it has undertaken efforts to improve freshman retention rates and six-year graduation rates, which are among the many metrics tracked by the magazine for its rankings.

KU highlighted other items of note from this year’s rankings:

• The School of Business is ranked 41st among publics, up one spot from last year.

• The School of Engineering is ranked 51st among publics, up three spots from last year.

• KU is ranked in two additional subjects this year compared with last year. U.S. News has published undergraduate nursing rankings for the first time, and KU debuted at 22nd among publics. Additionally, KU’s accounting program ranks 27th among publics after being unranked last year.

• KU is ranked 24th among publics in the Best Value Schools rankings.

KU made the rankings for Most Innovative Schools (30th among publics) and Best Colleges for Veterans (56th among publics).

The rankings released on Monday are different than the publication’s graduate school rankings, which are published in the spring. In the most recent graduate school rankings, KU has nine programs in the top 10 and 50 in the top 50 among public universities.


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