Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 35
 
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
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US News and World Report Survey Ranks Princeton University No. 2

Dilshanie Perera

Princeton University finds itself behind Harvard in the 2009 U.S. News and World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” ranking that was released last week. The ranking system places Harvard, Princeton, and Yale in the top three spots, with MIT and Stanford sharing position four.

In previous years, Princeton and Harvard have been known to share the designation of number one, with Princeton sometimes edging out Harvard for the top spot.

“As a student, I think rankings matter very little,” said Princeton High School graduate Vicki Chen, a member of the University’s Class of 2009. She added that the rankings are “a bigger deal for administrators and high school seniors who pay more attention to them. But in general, everyone knows that Harvard and Princeton are competing a lot.” The rivalry, she remarked, is “kind of fun.”

Officials from Princeton University said that “while the University appreciates this recognition, formulaic rankings offer an inconsistent, and often inaccurate picture of what individual colleges offer students, which is one reason many institutions don’t rely on rankings to inform students about the educational and social opportunities we provide.”

“We are pleased to be acknowledged as one of the nation’s best universities, and we remain dedicated to demonstrating to interested students and their families the many ways we continue to improve the Princeton experience every year,” officials added.

The way U.S. News calculates their rankings is based on a variety of criteria. It distinguishes national universities from liberal arts colleges in the comparison, then obtains data about various “indicators of academic excellence,” and ranks schools against one another based on composite scores.

Of the academic indicators, peer assessment by presidents, provosts, deans, and others is given the greatest weight. Also taken into account are retention rates; faculty resources; student selectivity, which is based on SAT or ACT scores; number of students in the top 10 percent of their high school’s graduating class, and the acceptance rate of the university; financial resources, graduation rate; and alumni giving rate.

In a ranking recently released by the Princeton Review education service, Princeton was first in the category of “students happy with financial aid.” Officials have said that the University’s financial aid initiatives endeavor to make education more affordable. In 2001, the University eliminated loans from financial aid packages, thus enabling students to graduate unhampered by debt.

The University expects 1,246 students to enroll in the Class of 2012. The average financial aid award for members of the class is $34,850, with tuition, room, and board costing approximately $45,695 in total.

The University’s aid plan helps moderate-, middle-, and upper-middle-income families afford the cost of college, with grants that cover up to the full cost of attending Princeton. Approximately 54 percent of the undergraduate student body receives financial aid, and 56 percent of the incoming Class of 2012 will be on financial aid.

In addition to the U.S. News college ratings, Princeton was ranked first by Forbes.com, and was among the top 25 colleges in a list of the top 50 colleges for African American students by Black Enterprise magazine’s September issue. The magazine’s survey looked at data on student diversity, social life, graduation rates, and quality of education.

In the college selection process, Princeton officials favor using “a variety of outstanding resources available to find the best match,” adding “it is important to note that no ranking can capture whether a school is the best choice for an individual student.”

Speaking to the effect of rankings in her own experience, Ms. Chen mused, “Almost everyone on campus knows what the rankings are. It was a really fun day when Princeton beat Harvard for the No. 1 spot a few years ago, but it doesn’t change your life.”

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