With so many colleges in the Boston area, the craziness that ensued following U.S. News and World Report’s release of its 2015 college rankings was hardly unexpected. The movement in the rankings, however, was certainly a surprise to many. While Boston College and Harvard remained static in the #31 and #2 slots, respectively, Boston University dropped a spot from last year’s all time high. In the process, BU is now tied with Northeastern University, which climbed seven spots from last years #49 ranking.
Other area colleges also saw increases, such as MIT, which rose to the #7 spot, breaking last year’s tie with Duke University and University of Pennsylvania. Tufts University managed to snag the #27 slot, a spot that it now shares with Wake Forest University.
Boston College may not have fallen at all in the rankings, but the lack of movement is still disheartening to some when compared to Northeastern’s rapid ascent, jumping 60 spots since 1996. Former president Robert Freeland reverse-engineered the school in many ways to climb in the rankings. To do so, Freeland put in place measures such as the capping of classes at 19 instead of 20 and dropping the SAT requirement for international students. These and other practices allowed for Northeastern to perform better in the publication’s annual rankings.
Freeland even went so far as to approach U.S. News about altering the criteria to take the school’s signature co-op program into account. Although Northeastern may have garnered national attention for its rise, the school is still ranked low in terms of value for the education.
To many, the rankings have been a game changer to many colleges and universities that previously relied on only prestige and alumni word-of-mouth. Despite what can be viewed as the flawed nature of numerical criteria used to “grade” colleges, the U.S. News rankings continue to hold sway. Bucknell University, Emory University and George Washington University have all been engulfed in scandals regarding misreported data, a reflection of the pressure schools feel to keep up their image and compete with institutions across the country.
So where does this leave Boston College? Although Dean David Quigley issued a statement positively noting the national attention, for the most part the school maintains that it is not entirely absorbed by the numbers game. Boston College did particularly well in terms of admission selectivity, recommendations from students’ high school counselors and alumni support.
None of the above categories reflect any effort by the school to conform solely to the criteria, but rather a continued commitment to higher education and overall improvement. BC also earned the #37 spot for “Great Schools Great Value”, with 37.2% of students receiving need-based grants, and the Carroll School of Management rose one spot to #21 on the list for undergraduate business programs, although a recent Bloomberg Business Week ranking of similar institutions placed CSOM at #4.
While students may look for an increase on BC’s part in next year’s rankings, Quigley views the current spot as a reflection of the commitment “to providing a transformative education to those young men and women who chose to study at BC, and it is good to see our peers recognizing just how well we are doing.”