Columbia University, whose alumni include founding father Alexander Hamilton and former President Barack Obama, fell to 18th on the US News & World Report list. annual college rankings after admitting had submitted inaccurate data in previous years.
The Ivy League institution was ranked No. 2 on the annual list in 2021, prompting one of its own professors to question the accuracy of the information the school had been providing to US News & World Report for its annual analysis, what was it released on Monday.
The magazine’s annual rankings provide much more than bragging rights to top colleges, as the rankings are used as recruiting tools to convince high school students to apply to highly selective colleges. For its part, US News & World Report said on a Sunday mail that “it’s up to schools to accurately report their data,” which includes information on topics ranging from graduation rates to the proportion of faculty holding tertiary degrees, indicating the highest degree available in specific fields.
The math teacher posed questions
The accuracy of the last data point was one of the issues raised by Columbia math professor Michael Thaddeus in a blog post at the beginning of this year. Thaddeus noted that he had seen Columbia rise to “the lofty position of second place,” leading him to wonder how the university’s status had managed to climb from its 18th-place position in 1988.
Thaddeus investigated the numbers and concluded that “several of the key figures supporting Columbia’s high ranking are inaccurate, dubious, or grossly misleading.” For example, he pointed out that Columbia had reported that 100% of its full-time faculty had a Ph.D. or a terminal degree, but noted that 66 of nearly 1,000 faculty members had bachelor’s or master’s degrees as their highest credentials.
in a statement on Friday, Columbia Chancellor Mary Boyce said her new analysis found that 95.3% of her full-time faculty have terminal degrees. She also found inaccuracies in her earlier class size data, a problem since colleges with smaller class sizes rank more favorably. About 60% of undergraduate classes have fewer than 20 students, instead of the 80% reported by US News & World Report.
“[A]Anything less than complete accuracy in the data we report, regardless of size or reason, is inconsistent with the standards of excellence to which Columbia holds itself,” Boyce said in the statement. “We deeply regret the shortcomings in our previous reports. And they’re committed to doing better.”
Earlier this year, Columbia said it would not submit data to US News & World Report for the current rankings while it reviewed its data. In a Monday statement to CBS MoneyWatch, the magazine said it ranked Columbia based on “data from the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Data where no third-party data exists.”
Below are the top 20 national university rankings and their annual tuition, as reported by US News & World Report on Monday:
1. Princeton University: $57,410
2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: $57,986
3. Harvard University: $57,261
3. Stanford University: $56,169
3. Yale University: $62,250
6. University of Chicago: $62,940
7. Johns Hopkins University: $60,480
7. University of Pennsylvania: $63,452
9. California Institute of Technology: $60,864
10. Duke University: $63,054
10. Northwestern University: $63,468
12. Dartmouth College: $62,430
13. Brown University: $65,146
13. Vanderbilt University: $60,348
15. Rice University: $54,960
15. Washington University in St. Louis: $60,590
17. Cornell University: $63,200
18. Columbia University: $65,524
18. University of Notre Dame: $60,301
20. University of California, Berkeley: $43,980 (out-of-state) or $14,226 (in-state)
20. University of California, Los Angeles: $44,830 (out-of-state) or $13,804 (in-state)