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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

We're No. 49 (again)!



Love 'em or loathe 'em, the U.S. News & World Report rankings of America's colleges and universities were announced today, and three Florida schools are listed in the top tier.

The University of Florida weighs in for the second year in a row at No. 49. The University of Miami is at No. 51, and Florida State University secured the No. 102 spot.

The University of South Florida, the University of Central Florida, and Florida Institute of Technology are included in U.S. News' third tier, which lists colleges ranked 134 through 196 out of the 262 national universities surveyed.

The report cites New College of Florida as the nation's No. 5-ranked public liberal arts college.

While students and parents often rely heavily on the rankings when selecting a college or university, many schools have complained that the rankings aren't particularly meaningful.

Among the indicators U.S. News examines are incoming student SAT scores, retention rates, predicted versus actual graduation rates, class sizes and student-faculty ratios. But a full one-fourth of a school's ranking is based on a "peer assessment" score that relies on presidents, provosts and deans of admissions to rate peer schools' academic programs on a scale of 1 to 5.

It's not surprising, many presidents argue, that the Ivy Leagues top the list year in and year out, eclipsing schools that may be just as worthy – and actually a better fit – for many students.

Dozens of schools, including Eckerd College, have stopped sending data to U.S. News, charging that the magazine lacks a scientific formula and that it fails to take into consideration a school's uniqueness. This year, only 46 percent of colleges returned the survey, down from 51 percent last year, Inside Higher Ed reports. The drop was particularly steep for liberal arts colleges, which went from a participation rate of 55 percent to 44 percent.

Eckerd president Donald R. Eastman III, along with 23 other liberal arts college presidents, signed a letter in spring 2007 blasting U.S. News for misleading data that "degrade" the college search process. Those efforts seem to have had little effect on the magazine, or on students and parents who each fall eagerly await the magazine's assessment of "America's Best Colleges."

Donna Winchester, higher education reporter

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:54am]


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