For the first time in two years, UR has moved up one spot to 35th on the “U.S. News and World Report” list of “America’s Best Colleges.” The ranking is compiled annually by the magazine and is based on such criteria as retention rate of freshman, student selectivity and peer assessment.

“The ranking was very predictable,” President Thomas Jackson said, due to the fact that the methodology used to compile the results remains constant every year. The methodology is weighted heavily on the peer assessment category, which asks various leaders of the academic world their opinions about a school.

Jackson, Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Kevin Parker and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jonathan Burdick all agreed that the U.S. News method of evaluating a school, especially UR, was incomplete.

“It’s just a beauty contest,” Parker said. He pointed to more comprehensive rankings, such as those conducted by The American Society for Engineering, that evaluate a university on a teacher to student ratio. UR is first in the ASE rankings.

Parke also noted that UR’s specialized fields, such as Optics and Biomedical Engineering, are not considered by U.S. News.

According to Burdick, it is the peer assessment that hurts the UR’s ranking. “25 percent of the score comes from a reputation survey of college presidents and enrollment directors – the old boy’s network definition of college quality,” Burdick said. “If this unique, outdated and ill-defined factor was not used, Rochester’s rank based only on objective facts would be higher.”

So does this ranking really matter when it comes to admissions?

“The U.S. News rankings are a great way to sell magazines, but they don’t have much influence on student choice, and they’re not the most serious evaluations Rochester will experience this year,” Burdick said.

“Students are more influenced by their guidance counselors, and parents,” Parker said. He thinks this ranking will greatly affect the admissions to the college.

Although the ranking does not concern him, Burdick did offer this piece of advice to the students and faculty of UR.

“If you want to improve Rochester’s ranking, do what you came here to do – follow your passions to some form of success, however you describe it, and tell people what you are learning and why you like this place,” Burdick said. “We know that the percentage of students staying and graduating is extremely high, and growing, and that’s the most important statistic for us.”

Pisarski can be reached at

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