Office of Planning and Budgeting

UW Slips Slightly in US News Rankings: Here’s Why

US News and World Report released its annual college rankings Tuesday and the UW dropped from 42 to 46 in the National Universities category, and from 10 to 13 among public universities.

This drop isn’t as severe as it might seem. As noted by the Seattle Times, this change is a relatively small one. In the rankings, many universities may have equal scores and so share a numeric rank. This year, for example, there are five institutions that are ranked 46th.  Last year, there were several institutions ranked 42nd. Only one institution is now ranked above the UW that was not ranked above or tied with the UW last year: UC Irvine.

Ranks are calculated by weighting a number of factors:

  1. Undergraduate academic reputation
  2. Retention
  3. Graduation rate
  4. Faculty Resources
  5. Student selectivity
  6. Spending per student
  7. Alumni giving

Interestingly, the factor for which the UW shows the greatest deviation from other similarly ranked institutions is “Faculty Resources.” While the UW is ranked 46th overall, it is ranked 150th in terms of faculty resources. The two most heavily weighted measures in faculty resources are:

  1. The percentage of classes with fewer than 20 students, and
  2. Average faculty salary.

Given the recent economic situation faced by the UW, it is not surprising that these are problematic measures for us.

In summary, the UW’s ranking has dropped, but the significance of that drop is low. Moreover, the UW’s low ranking on the key “Faculty Resources” factor is to be expected given the salary freeze and state funding cuts the UW has experienced during the Great Recession.

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