Notre Dame and other private institutions fall multiple places

The U.S. News & World Report released the popular “Best National University” rankings last week, with the University of Notre Dame falling two spots from number 18 to number 20. 

The CEO of U.S. News & World Report, Eric Gertler, told USA Today that this year’s rankings reflected “significant” changes in methodology. He explained, “Measurements of student outcomes, including borrower debt and post-graduate earnings, were weighted higher in this year’s list.”

The U.S. News & World Report official press release regarding the change in methodology explains more specifically that there is “Increased weighting on a schools’ success in graduating students from different backgrounds.”

The USA Today report continued, “In last year’s rankings … donations from alumni were weighted at three percent in a university’s overall score—now that number is zero. Class size went from eight percent to zero. Another change involves research: if professors are cited in major publications, that can boost a school’s score, too.”

The elimination of alumni donations and class size as determining factors harmed the rankings of other private universities in a more significant manner than Notre Dame. Private institutions fell an average of 16 spots, while public institutions rose by an average of eight positions. 

Significantly, Wake Forest University, a private research university with an enrollment of close to 9,000 students, fell 19 spots from number 29 to number 47. University of Chicago fell from number six to number 12.

Unlike Wake Forest and UChicago, Notre Dame did not provide a news release on their fall in the rankings, though its decline was less dramatic. 

In response to the new rankings, Wake Forest University President Susan R. Wente stated, “It is unfortunate that this year’s methodology no longer rewards institutions for some of the elements of the Wake Forest experience that we value most.” 

The news release continued, “The positive impact of these commitments,” which include “consideration of small class size and teaching by professors with a terminal degree” have contributed to “Ninety-eight percent of Wake Forest graduates being employed or enrolled in graduate schools of their choosing within six months of completing their undergraduate degree.”

The University of Chicago noted in their statement that the “U.S. News & World Report made changes to its ranking for 2023 which we strongly believe work against the interests of students who value an in-depth academic experience,” also mentioning the lack of consideration of class size and the “educational achievement level of instructors in the calculation of rank.”

Notre Dame’s fall to 20 continues a general trend of modest decline since the school was ranked number 15 in the 2017 edition of the U.S. News & World Report, in a tie with Cornell, Rice, and Vanderbilt. Contrary to this trend, Notre Dame did rise from number 19 to number 18 in 2022. 

Along with updating their methodology, U.S. News & World Report is seeking to adjust the mission of their rankings system, focusing on “helping students find the school that is right for them,” articulated Gertler. According to Gertler, this is “the core of everything we do in our education vertical.” 

To this end, Gertler continued: “U.S. News will continue to release new tools that will enable students to explore different criteria based on their individual interests and needs, helping them choose the best possible school for their academic and professional success.”

Considering both this year’s new criteria and Gertler’s comments about the future, Notre Dame’s increased admissions of diverse applicants from a variety of ethnic and educational backgrounds could bode well for the school’s future in the rankings. Notre Dame’s class of 2027, the most recent class admitted into the university, was both “the most selective and diverse class in [the school’s] history.”

According to The Observer report on the class of 2027, “20.5% of the class is first generation or Pell recipients, 34% of the class identifies as students of color and 8% of the class is international.” This increase in admissions of students from different ethnic and educational backgrounds is part of a concerted effort on the university’s part that they plan on expanding in the coming years, according to an interview with Micki Kidder, Vice President for Undergraduate Enrollment, obtained by The Observer in their report. 

“This isn’t a one-time outreach that Notre Dame makes to a diverse group of prospective families and assumes that they’re going to apply to Notre Dame,” Kidder said. “We really need to authentically invest in relationships so that we can continue to increase the diversity of our applicant pool.”

This focus on increasing admissions numbers from students from less common ethnic and educational backgrounds, coming just as U.S. News & World Report is emphasizing this metric in their rankings could help Notre Dame prevent similar falls down in the rankings in coming years.

Nico Schmitz, W. Joseph DeReuil, and Luke Thompson are seniors currently in or notably departed from the Program of Liberal Studies. When they are not unnecessarily co-writing Rover articles, you can find them passionately arguing about the merits of said departure from “The Program.” If you are considering joining PLS, email for reasons against doing so and or for reasons why you should. 

Photo Credit: Matthew Rice

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