With a larger-than-usual freshman class joining the Tribe this year, the College of William and Mary seems to be doing something right as an institution, yet the school fell from number 31 to number 33 on the 2011 U.S. News and World Report College Rankings of National Universities, released Tuesday.
This annual report ranks schools based on a variety of factors, from the freshman retention rate to the reputation of undergraduate academics, which are entered into a weighted mathematical formula to determine a school’s overall score. The College has held firmly to its coveted position in the top 50 schools over the past few years, and this year tied with New York University at its position as number 33 on the list.
Though it dropped two spots in the rankings, its overall score actually increased, from 67 to 69 (out of 100).
This year’s top 50 includes numerous prestigious schools, including the eight members of the Ivy League, whose rankings range from Harvard and Princeton, tied for number 1, to Cornell at number 15. Among the College’s regional competitors, Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia tied for number 25, while the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill came in at number 29.
“I have a very jaded view of the rankings,” College President Taylor Reveley said. “It’s always nice to do well in them, but truly, it doesn’t mean squat in terms of substance.”
Associate Provost for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions Henry Broaddus shared the president’s sentiment and elaborated.
“It’s called the ‘beauty pageant’ by a lot of folks,” Broaddus said. “I think good rankings are a lot like honorary degrees — they’re not really substantive, but you’re always glad to get them.”
Generally, the rankings are important to College administrators only in that many people do take these results very seriously.
“They’re important only because people pay attention to them,” Reveley said. “Whatever the ranking, we tend to do well.”
Although the U.S. News and World Report results generally hold the highest prestige in the minds of interested individuals, many other measures exist.
“This is one data point among many others,” Provost Michael Halleran said. “It doesn’t drive our decisions.”
The fact remains that the College generally does extremely well on these types of surveys.
“Consistency — we look for consistency,” Director of University Relations Brian Whitson explained. “The College consistently does well.”
But one significant impediment preventing the College from rising further in the rankings may be the biggest problem it currently faces: a lack of financial resources. Though it ranked well on the list of national universities, the College actually holds the worst spot in terms of financial resources out of all of the schools in the top 50.
“We talk about doing more with less,” Whitson continued. “And when you look at an overall ranking of 33 and a financial resources ranking of 97, it really shows that the College is indeed doing more with less.”
Despite their uncertainty about the accuracy of such ranking systems, administrators expressed pride in the College’s position.
“If you’re doing well in all of them, that means something,” Reveley said.