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ND ranked 18th in the country

Ellyn Michalak | Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Notre Dame moved up one spot to No. 18 on this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of the nation’s best colleges.

The report put Harvard, Princeton, and Yale in the top three spots on the list, and placed Notre Dame in a three-way tie with Emory University and Vanderbilt University.

The 2009 list marks the second consecutive year that the University has moved up one number in the annual ranking. In 2007 Notre Dame held the No. 19 spot alongside Vanderbilt, and in 2006 the University was ranked 20th in the country.

University administrators do not believe anything different was done this year to cause the rise in ranking.

“When you’re already a well established university and well recognized, you’re not going to change in any dramatic way based on rankings,” assistant provost and chief of admissions Dan Saracino said. “All it is is an affirmation for what most people already know. Rankings are nice though, because they’re an objective third party indication that we’re doing something right.”

The University’s 24.5 percent acceptance rate in 2007 aided in the denotation of Notre Dame as a tier one school.

Each year, the U.S. News and World Report surveys 1476 colleges nationwide and uses several categories to judge their overall academic quality, including assessment by administrators at peer institutions, retention of students, faculty resources, financial resources, student selectivity, alumni giving rate, and graduation rate.

According to Saracino, Notre Dame typically scores low on the peer assessment part of the report, which allows other schools’ Provost, President and Chief of Admissions to judge the academic excellence of similar universities through a survey. This category allots for 25 percent of the school’s total and reasons for the low scores are unclear, he said.

“I think that it’s probably that they find it hard to believe that an institution that has a proud sports traditions can be equally excellent academically and overall,” Saracino said. “Also the fact that we have a smaller graduate program. [The fact that] only 2,000 of 10,000 students are graduate students might be a reason. When you see a school like Stanford get recognized, you see that they have a large number of graduate students and an outstanding graduate program.”

The report does not take into account other aspects of academic quality such as endowment funds, academic profiling of students and bond ratings. Notre Dame is one of 12 Universities that has a AAA bond rating.

“[Having a AAA bond rating] says, from a business perspective, that Notre Dame is extremely well run and well positioned for the future,” Saracino said.

He also said that the rankings do not affect the number or quality of applicants from year to year.

In fact, the 2008 admits hold an average SAT score of 1405 in critical reading/writing, a 20 point jump up from last year’s average and the highest average score of any year, he said.

“While we recognize that the U.S. News survey serves a useful function for prospective students and their parents, we are on record for more than 15 years as having reservations about the methodology used in all of the various college and university rankings,” university spokesman and assistant vice president Dennis Brown said. “That said, by any measure, we believe Notre Dame belongs in the top 20 of any survey of undergraduate institutions.”

Despite the rankings, freshman Carli Fernandez said her decision was made based on several other factors.

“[Notre Dame] was the perfect size for me,” she said. “When I visited campus the atmosphere seemed different than any other college … the rankings didn’t really matter to me. Even if Notre Dame wasn’t in the top 20, I would have still wanted to come here.”