This year’s US News and; World Report’s National University rankings for 2014 set Binghamton University eight places lower than last year, dropping its rank from No. 89 best to No. 97.
While the University published a press release celebrating its ranking as a Top-100 University, Ryan Yarosh, director of media and public relations, shrugged off the effectiveness and real value of the rankings system.
“They changed their ranking system this year,” Yarosh said. “Besides posting online, we really don’t place ads or publicize these facts much.”
This year, US News put a larger focus on SAT and ACT scores instead of class standing, and an increase in the weight of graduation rates. Although US News changes its rankings system often, including in 2011, without having as large an effect on Binghamton, Provost Donald Nieman claimed that a possibility for the drop was because nearly one-quarter of the rankings were based on reputation ratings from outside sources.
“One area where I think we have had challenges in the ranking, and it’s a big portion of the US News and; Report ranking system, is through the reputational survey of the University. About two-thirds of the figure is from university provosts and presidents, and one-third from high school guidance counselors,” Yarosh said.
Nieman argued that it is difficult for school administrators to judge many schools that they may not know enough about.
“Who’s completing the survey that year will determine the index. There is some fluctuation in that. Had I gotten a survey and was faced with ranking two hundred and eighty-something national universities — what do I know about the quality of the undergraduate program at the University of Albany? I don’t,” Nieman said.
However, many other factors made up the total rankings, according to Bob Morse, director of data at US News.
“We mainly look at graduation rates, retention rates, academic reputation. Academic reputation involves surveying presidents, provosts and other administrators about colleges across the country. But we look at a variety of things,” Morse said.
Nieman admitted the reputation weight has not changed in the past year, and that most factors of the rankings have remained relatively the same.
“We’re looking at this, and I have not been able to determine how the change in the formula has affected us. The reputational survey counts for about 22.5 percent, so it’s very, very high. I think it’s about the same that it’s been,” Nieman said.
He pointed out other rankings like Fiske’s Guide and Kiplinger, which he argued gave better reviews.
“They look at the value proposition that the university offers,” Nieman said. “The less sophisticated consumers of education will look at US News. More sophisticated consumers will look at other places.”
Susannah Snider, a staff writer for Kiplinger’s college rankings, explained some of the differences of its rating system, which rated Binghamton as No. 12 for best values in public colleges in 2013.
“We judge primarily on value, which is determined in large part by affordability and academic quality. This includes admittance rate, graduate rate and financial aid and test scores,” Snider said. “We also don’t have a lot of subjective tools like reputation or student experience.”
Helen Frazer, an undeclared freshman, was disappointed with the drop in rank.
“I’m just disappointed in the rating because other people will look down upon this school even though the academic rigor is about the same as schools with higher rankings,” Frazer said.
For some students, the changes in rankings made little difference in their everyday lives applying to, and attending Binghamton.
“They didn’t make a huge deal in deciding where to go. I chose Binghamton over Cornell because it’s still a good school, but it’s a lot cheaper,” said Chris Beard, a sophomore majoring in computer science. “It’s still a top school.”
Arianna Gorkowitz, an undeclared sophomore, was still encouraged by the rank.
“I looked at rankings, but I didn’t realize Bing was in the top 100. That’s awesome,” Gorkowitz said.
Nieman said that the best way of dealing with the drop was to move past it.
“I would like to see us regain the position we had, I’d like to see us improve, but again, I know the fallibility of these. It’s nice to have good publicity points to talk about, or to receive a lot of attention, but it’s important not to put too much stock in them. My primary goal is to make sure that we are offering the highest quality education for our students that we possibly can,” Nieman said.