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U.S. News & World Report ranks ND

Ann Marie Jakubowski | Thursday, September 27, 2012

In this year’s U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges rankings released earlier this month, Notre Dame jumped from No. 19 to No. 17, landing at that spot in a tie with Vanderbilt University and Rice University.

The rankings take into account not only standard data such as admission rate, student retention rate and graduation rate, but also student satisfaction survey results, faculty resources and percentage of alumni who contribute.

Donald Bishop, associate vice president for undergraduate enrollment, said this year’s rise in the rankings was the result of several advances and improvement initiatives at the University.

“First, we now have a larger applicant pool and a lower admission rate, with a higher profile of the incoming freshmen,” Bishop said. “We have a strong alumni giving record, which ranks third among all universities, and graduation success rates that place us in the top four of the nation. Notre Dame has also enhanced spending on academics and student development.”

Bishop said he did not expect the ranking to significantly change this year’s pool of applicants.

“I think our rankings in the various guidebooks have been consistently strong,” Bishop said. “Being ranked 17th in U.S. News is pretty similar to where many students have thought Notre Dame has been ranked in the past, so I doubt it will change behavior. Notre Dame is often the top choice for our admitted students. They collected 600 admits at schools ranked higher in U.S. News and still thought Notre Dame was a better match for them.”

The recruitment efforts of the admissions staff have the potential to increase both the application rate and the quality of the application pool, with the goal of increasing the yield of admitted students who enroll at the University, Bishop said.  

“Among the schools ranked [No.] 15 to [No.] 25, Notre Dame enjoys a high success rate of enrolling joint-admitted students, in which students admitted to two top institutions choose Notre Dame,” he said. “In head-on competition, our yield rate of admitted to enrolled students ranks in the top 10.”

While the rankings are nice indicators of university quality, Bishop said they are not necessarily authoritatively accurate.

“Being ranked 17th is obviously better than being 19th, but the U.S. News variables and weights reflect their opinion of what makes a good college,” he said. “Forbes Magazine ranks ND 12th among national universities and 8th among research universities.”

Bishop said he believes rankings are more valuable for students in the beginning of the college search process than when making a final decision.

“Rankings are okay to use to develop your first list of colleges to consider, but students need to visit the colleges and judge for themselves what is important to them,” Bishop said. “Students and parents like simplistic rankings so that they don’t have to think as much, but rankings shouldn’t be a determining factor in your final selection unless you are more concerned about what others think than what you determine for yourself.”