The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville dropped 15 slots to 78th among 132 public universities listed in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of national universities released today.
UA tied with the University of Mississippi for the ranking, with Chancellor Joe Steinmetz attributing the slide in part to changes in the rankings methodology to evaluate the retention of students receiving Pell grants.
Such grants are reserved for students with exceptional need, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
"We didn't fare well in that measure compared to the folks around us, and that probably accounts for most of the slippage that there is in the ranking," Steinmetz said.
For the entering class of 2011, the six-year graduation rate for UA students receiving Pell and Stafford aid was 42.3 percent, out of a total of 705 students, according to a university report. Not all UA students who received a Pell grant also received a Stafford loan, but most did, according to the university data.
In describing its methodology, U.S. News & World Report described how 5 percent of its total ranking was based on a school's "social mobility" score.
Steinmetz said the ranking in part reflects data collected on the entering class of 2011, including the 61.5 percent graduation rate for the cohort of 4,414 students used to calculate the graduation rate, as stated in a university report. The rate was a dip from the 64.5 percent graduation rate for the previous year's cohort.
"Any of the things we've done in the last two or three years to address retention in general of our students, it isn't reflected in that  group," Steinmetz said, noting that the incoming class of 2012 -- not included in the data analyzed by U.S. News & World Report -- had a record-high six-year graduation rate of 65.5 percent. The grad rate was calculated based on a cohort of 4,546 students, according to UA spokesman Mark Rushing.
UA ranked 152nd among all national universities, including private schools, tied with St. John Fisher College in New York, St. John's University in New York and Union University in Tennessee, in addition to the University of Mississippi.
The top national university in the ranking was Princeton, followed by Harvard. Among top public national universities, the University of California-Los Angeles ranked first, followed by the University of California-Berkeley.
Public university rankings for schools in nearby states showed Texas A&M University ranked in a tie for 24th, the University of Tennessee ranked in a tie for 52nd, the University of Oklahoma ranked in a tie for 58th and the University of Missouri ranked in a tie for 61st. Louisiana State University ranked in a tie for 70th.
The rankings, first published in 1983, are based in part on peer surveys filled out by university presidents, provosts and deans of admission, according to U.S. News & World Report. Data such as student graduation rates are among other information considered in the rankings.
Among schools in Arkansas, only UA was ranked in the national universities category. Hendrix College ranked in a tie for 76th with four other schools among a total of 172 ranked national liberal arts colleges. It had the same ranking last year.
The University of the Ozarks in Clarksville ranked third among 64 schools ranked in the Best Regional Colleges-South category.
John Brown University in Siloam Springs ranked 13th out of 105 schools in the regional university category among Southern schools, up four spots from last year.
Other Arkansas schools ranked in this regional category were: Harding University (tied for 20th); the University of Central Arkansas (tied for 71st); and Henderson State University (tied for 91st); Arkansas State University (tied for 95th); and Arkansas Tech University (tied for 102nd).
Not all universities were ranked by U.S. News & World Report.
Joe Steinmetz, University of Arkansas chancellor, speaks Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, during a banquet at the The David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History in Fayetteville.
Metro on 09/10/2018
Print Headline: UA falls to 78 in colleges' rankings