Updated: Northwestern stays at 12th in U.S. News & World Report rankings

Cat Zakrzewski, Assistant Campus Editor

‪Northwestern remains the 12th best university in the country for the fifth consecutive year in college rankings released Tuesday night by U.S. News & World Report.‬

NU also placed in several other rankings published by the online magazine, including 13th for engineering schools offering doctorates as their highest degree and 23rd for national universities with the best value.

“It’s impressive when any school can maintain its position,” said Robert Morse, U.S. News & World Report director of data research. “It proves it’s a top school, that it maintains perspective in admissions, retention and graduation rate, and the alumni care about it.”

The higher a school is rated, the more difficult it becomes to increase in overall rank, Morse said. Because there is less variation in scores among top-ranked universities, moving up is rare at that level.

“If you’re ranked 100th, it’s much easier to become ranked 90th or 85th than if you’re ranked 12th to become ranked fifth or even eighth,” Morse said.

NU’s stagnant ranking is not for lack of trying.

The University sent an email to undergraduate alumni in 2010 urging them to increase their donations as a way to “radically improve Northwestern’s standing in U.S. News & World Report,” according to the Chicago Tribune. However, the online magazine says alumni giving only makes up 5 percent of a national university’s overall score, the lowest weighting of the seven factors that the publication considers when ranking schools.

Similarly, NU’s acceptance rate is the lowest its ever been at 15 percent, but Morse said acceptance rate counts for only 1.5 percent of the overall score handed down by U.S. News & World Report.

The magazine, which has ranked colleges and universities since 1983, also scores each institution in undergraduate academic reputation, graduation and retention rate, faculty resources, financial resources and graduation rate performance. These scores are then weighed to achieve a final overall score for each college and university that determines its rank.

Undergraduate academic reputation accounts for 22.5 percent of a school’s overall score, according to U.S. News & World Report. Scores in this category are based on surveys from peer institutions and high school counselors.

Schools that do improve their rankings often make small changes to several variables, not just one, Morse said.

For the first time, the publication averaged the scores given by guidance counselors over the past two years, rather than just one year, Morse said. Still, he said this change had little impact on the new rankings.

NU was ranked 17th in surveys from guidance counselors, tied with California Institute of Technology, Rice University, University of California-Berkeley and the University of Chicago, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Harvard and Princeton universities tied for first in the national university category for the second consecutive year, followed by Yale University at third and a tie for fourth place place between the University of Chicago and Columbia University.

Williams College placed first in the rankings for national liberal arts colleges. University President MortonSchapiro served as president of the western Massachusetts college for nine years before he came to NU in 2009.

This article has been updated to include embargoed information released Wednesday morning by U.S. News & World Report.