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UCLA

It's Official: We're Really Good

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By Dan Gordon '85

Published Sep 12, 2006 12:00 AM


art


The old joke among university publicists is that college rankings are ridiculously subjective and rife with methodological shortcomings —unless their institution fares well, in which case they are a testament to the campus’s greatness. In rankings compiled and published every year since 1983 by U.S. News & World Report, UCLA has always been one of those that could brag. Nonetheless, recently published surveys from two other publications that used different methodologies suggest that even the U.S. News rankings have given UCLA short shrift.

In the 2007 edition of U.S. News’ “America’s Best Colleges” survey, UCLA ranks No. 26 nationally and fourth among the nation’s public universities, behind only UC Berkeley (No. 21) and the University of Virginia and University of Michigan (tied at No. 24). Princeton edges Ivy League rival Harvard for the top spot in the latest U.S. News rankings, which are based on a formula that includes variables such as graduation and retention rates, faculty and financial resources, percentage of alumni donating money and, most importantly, an assessment by peer institutions.

The 2007 Kaplan/Newsweek “How to Get into College Guide” goes a step further, declaring UCLA one of the “New Ivies” — colleges whose first-rate academic programs and booms in highly qualified students have fueled their rise in stature among the nation’s top students, administrators and faculty and made those institutions competitive with Ivy League schools. UCLA is one of 25 schools — and the only public university in California — selected by the magazine and test preparation service, which based its picks on admissions statistics and interviews with administrators, students, faculty and alumni.

Then there’s the “Washington Monthly College Rankings,” which start with the premise that college rankings typically employ the wrong criteria to determine which schools are best. Instead, Washington Monthly used three central criteria: Universities should be engines of social mobility, they should produce the academic minds and scientific research that advance knowledge and drive economic growth, and they should inculcate and encourage an ethic of service. By that standard, UCLA ranks No. 4 nationally, and is one of four UC campuses in the top 10. (UC Berkeley, UC San Diego and UC Davis are the others.)

“That UCLA is one of this country’s greatest universities has long been attested to — more students apply to UCLA than any other school,” says UCLA Chancellor Norman Abrams. “We are pleased that the criteria used to rank schools are being broadened. That we do so well on all measures corroborates the judgment of the 47,000 students who applied to UCLA in 2005-06.”

“UCLA has always been an outstanding school, but in recent years it has clearly become one of the most sought-after schools in the country,” adds Annette Riffle, contributing editor for the 2007 Kaplan/Newsweek guide, noting the university’s 12 percent increase in applications from prospective freshmen in 2006. “UCLA has been able to appeal to a growing number of the nation’s top students because of its commitment to academic excellence, range of program options, variety of campus activities and desirable location.”

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