University drops in ranking for third time in a row

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For the third consecutive year, TCU’s rank on an annual list of America’s best universities has dropped.

The U.S. News and World Report list of America’s Best Colleges 2009, published in August, ranked TCU No. 113 in the National Universities category.

This is down from No. 108 in the 2008 edition, No. 105 in 2007 and No. 97 in 2006.

According to an article available on U.S. News’ Web site, a university’s rank is based on a composite score determined by
the following factors: assessment by administrators at peer institutions, retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, alumni giving and graduation rate performance.

Most of the data is collected directly from the participating colleges, and this year more than 91 percent of the 1,476 schools surveyed provided U.S. News with statistical information, according to the article.

The fact that TCU has been falling in U.S. News’ rankings has not gone unnoticed by TCU administrators. Both Chancellor Victor Boschini and Wes Waggoner, director of freshman admission, used the word “frustrating” to describe TCU’s new ranking.

“The whole thing is very frustrating to me because if you look at every indicator at TCU that I’m aware of, we’re improving,” Boschini said. “Our retention rate is improving, our fundraising, all the things they go on.”

Raymond Brown, dean of admission, said this apparent contradiction is due to the way U.S. News determines a university’s score.

“The primary reason why we are ranked as low as we are is the assessment by our peers,” Brown said.

This peer assessment, which accounts for 25 percent of a school’s composite score, is a survey completed by a university’s president, provost and dean of admission, each of who rate the performance of other schools’ academic programs, Brown said.

“Now, I agree that reputation could be an element in the decision making process,” Brown said. “But it is the most heavily weighted element in the decision process, which is absurd because it is entirely subjective.”

Waggoner also said the weight given to the peer assessment survey can make U.S. News’ rankings unreliable.

“I get stuff in the mail from other colleges trying to convince directors of admissions and deans of admissions that they’re a good school,” Waggoner said. “Some schools market to other college presidents because of this.”

“It’s a total popularity contest,” Boschini said of the survey.

The people who complete the survey may be judging a school based on how it was when they attended college, and this is apparently hurting TCU in the rankings, Boschini said.

In the past eight years, TCU has moved from the ninth-most-selective school in Texas to the second-most-selective, Brown said. Two years ago, TCU dipped below the 50 percent admission rate, becoming the second university in Texas to do so, Brown said.

Boschini said he has a pragmatic reason for not worrying too much about TCU’s rank.

“My biggest indicator of when we’re not doing well is when 12,000 people don’t want to come to TCU,” Boschini said.

Other Texas universities have TCU beat in the rankings. Southern Methodist University is ranked 66 this year, Baylor University is ranked 76 and the University of Texas is ranked 47.

TCU’s ranking for the past five years

2009: 113
2008: 108
2007: 105
2006: 97
2005: 98

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