Hopkins holds onto 12th in U.S. News rankings

Rankings don't change much for most local institutions

September 09, 2014|By Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun

There were few surprises for local colleges and universities in the oft-quoted U.S. News and World Report annual rankings released Tuesday.

The Johns Hopkins University maintained its 12th-place position for national universities, falling between Dartmouth and Northwestern. Hopkins is focusing on its undergraduate experience, with a goal of making it among the top 10 in the nation by 2020.

And the state's flagship University of Maryland, College Park inched up one spot to 20th among the top 30 public national universities; it was 62nd in the overall university ranking.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County was for the sixth time ranked No. 1 in the category of up-and-coming universities.

The Naval Academy was ranked 13th in the list of best national liberal arts colleges, above its rival, the U.S. Military Academy, which was 24th. St. John's College in Annapolis was ranked 56th.

The rankings are often used by high school students applying to college and their parents to judge the overall prestige or value of a college or university. But in recent years, some institutions have grown increasingly critical of the rankings, saying that some colleges spend too much effort to increase their spots on the lists. Several other rankings, including ones that attempt to determine which colleges provide the best value for the money, have come out in recent years.

But no one denies that everyone still reads them.

"You can't totally ignore them," said Goucher President Jose A. Bowen, adding that boards and parents pay attention. Goucher moved up in the national liberal arts college rankings from 110 to 105, the same rank as Washington College.

But he is skeptical about their worth. "Most of the movement is small and most of the movement is insignificant," Bowen said, noting the rearrangement of the top Ivy League schools each year matters little. He said the rankings measure where "the kids with the best SAT scores and the best GPAs are going. They don't tell you which colleges are most transformational. They don't tell you what college will get you the best job. They don't tell you which college will change the way you think."

Over the years, U.S. News has increased the number of rankings, and this year it lists listed the best universities, the best colleges, the best regional colleges, the colleges with a strong commitment to undergraduate teaching, the high school counselors' top college picks, and a host of other categories.

While there are a few changes from year to year, traditionally the most selective colleges remain on the top. Princeton, Harvard and Yale were the top three national universities this year, edging out Stanford. Williams, Amherst and Swarthmore were the top three liberal arts colleges.

While UMBC has been at the top of the up-and-coming category for the last several years, its national university ranking was 149th.

Philip Rous, UMBC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said, "We are constantly looking at moving forward. I think that is a fundamental characteristic about UMBC. We are always trying to get better."

The university was also ranked fifth in the nation for its commitment to undergraduate teaching.

"We are very, very proud of that, because that reflects a shared value that our community has, which is to support the success of our students in getting better. We have had a strong commitment to innovation in teaching and learning," Rous said.

In the category of liberal arts colleges, St. Mary's College of Maryland was ranked 89th, and McDaniel was 129th.

Hopkins and UMBC were also noted for undergraduate research and for creative projects. The Naval Academy was ranked first in the national liberal arts colleges category by high school counselors. Towson University placed 15th in top public regional universities. Loyola University Maryland was noted for its service learning and earned third place in the category of regional liberal arts colleges in the North, and College Park was noted for its first-year experience.

Hopkins was ranked 19th in the category of "great schools, great prices." In contrast, Washington College was one of the top national liberal arts colleges noted for students graduating with a high level of debt.

In the category of best historically black colleges, Morgan State University was 15th, University of Maryland Eastern Shore was 23rd and Bowie State University was 25th. Goucher, McDaniel, St. Mary's College of Maryland and Washington College were ranked nationally as A+ schools for B students.

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

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