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University Jumps in U.S. News & World Report Rankings

Moves from 51 to 41, noted as “Up and Comer”


Boston University has jumped 10 positions, from 51 to 41, in U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of the nation’s colleges and universities, and now appears on a short list of “Up and Comers,” chosen for their “promising and innovative changes in the areas of academics, faculty, student life, campus, or facilities.” The publication made special note of BU’s robust undergraduate research program as well as its extensive study abroad opportunities, and it cited the undergraduate business and engineering programs as among the best.

In this year’s ranking of more than 1,500 colleges and universities, U.S. News considered many factors, including peer assessment, retention and graduation rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, and alumni giving.

“Although no evaluation system really captures all the aspects of a comprehensive research university, this significant jump in our ranking in U.S. News & World Report is another indication that our investments in our faculty, academic programs, student success, and facilities are starting to take hold and to be recognized nationally,” says President Robert A. Brown. “When taken together with our membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) last fall, and the early success of our fundraising campaign, it all adds up to great momentum for Boston University.”

Jean Morrison, BU provost and chief academic officer, is pleased with the new ranking. “We are elated with the progress BU continues to make as a research institution of international stature, as further illuminated by this latest U.S. News ranking,” she says. “It’s a reflection of the hard work of our faculty, whose scholarship, practical research discoveries, and commitment to excellence are each day helping to redefine their fields of study and producing success in the broader marketplace.

“There is always room for improvement,” Morrison says, “and we will continue pushing to provide the best possible learning and teaching environments for our community. Today, however, I want to commend our faculty and all of the individuals in the BU community whose outstanding efforts contributed to the significant improvement in this ranking. And I look forward to many more successes to champion in the years ahead.”

“We started our fundraising campaign, and our expanded alumni outreach efforts, not knowing if our 300,000 alumni would get behind them,” says Steven Hall, vice president for alumni relations. “Well, they have, in a big way. Alumni participation has gone up for three consecutive years, at a time when, averaged across all universities, it has dropped every year. We’ve gone from roughly three alumni gatherings a week, worldwide, to three events a day. That kind of support has a direct bearing on these rankings, and we couldn’t be more proud of our alums and our university.”

Melanie Madaio-O’Brien, assistant vice president for budget and institutional research, believes that the University’s leap forward can be attributed to several factors, including BU’s admission last November to the AAU, an elite organization of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada.

“This ranking is a combination of peer assessments,” says Madaio-O’Brien, “with 22.5 percent based on the reputation we have with our peers and high school counselors.”

She says student quality has improved because the University is becoming more selective as it moves to reduce class size, a practice that has also improved SAT scores and the class rank of accepted students. “We are also seeing better retention and graduation rates,” she says.

The ranking may have also been moved by efforts by Brown and Morrison to improve faculty resources, Madaio-O’Brien says, which are measured by a combination of factors, such as class size and student-to-faculty ratio, faculty salaries, and the number of faculty who are full-time and hold the highest degrees in their fields. BU has continued to hire faculty while many peer institutions have slowed their hiring, she says, and the University’s ranking in alumni participation has also improved. This year’s 9 percent participation earned BU a ranking of 147, while last year’s 8 percent participation rate put the University at 168.

The categories stayed the same this year, but the relative weights assigned to each category changed slightly from past years. This was an attempt to put more emphasis on student outcomes rather than student quality. For example, the weight assigned to the student selectivity score counted for 12.5 percent of the overall score, down from 15 percent. Meanwhile, the weight assigned to graduation and retention rates was raised from 20 percent to 22.5 percent. In addition, when calculating the student selectivity score, class rank counted for 25 percent, down from 40 percent, while SAT/ACT scores were raised to 65 percent, from 50 percent.

BU’s overall rank of 41 places it in a six-way tie with Lehigh University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison. On the U.S. News & World Report “Up and Comers” list, the University is in a 10-way tie for number 14.

Princeton University took the top spot in this year’s ranking; Harvard (2), MIT (7), Tufts University (28), Boston College (31), and Northeastern University (49) appear in the top 50.

Art Jahnke

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.

14 Comments on University Jumps in U.S. News & World Report Rankings

  • SSmith on 09.10.2013 at 8:52 am

    This ranking is wonderful acknowledgement of some exciting academic and facility programs and improvements, but I’m concerned that BU also made the short list for Universities with graduates who are saddled with the most debt. What’s being done to address affordability?

  • Decartes on 09.10.2013 at 10:02 am

    Very proud. I approve of the weight change that US News & WR Rankings made in order to rank schools. Student outcomes are most important.

  • Not Going to Blame BU for Everything on 09.10.2013 at 10:09 am

    Either they chase rankings or they lower costs… you really can’t do both with the endowment BU has.

    • Claire on 09.10.2013 at 3:24 pm

      Any chance BU will consider international financial aid now?

      • alyssa on 09.10.2013 at 6:42 pm

        how about never? any chance bu will ever focus on offering more financial aid to students IN AMERICA?

        • Riiiight on 09.20.2013 at 3:28 pm

          Alyssa, if you’re that narrow-minded, BU’s not the place for you, anyway.

      • Not Going to Blame BU for Everything on 09.10.2013 at 11:00 pm

        Read above about endowment.

  • Bruce J. on 09.10.2013 at 11:08 am

    and Brandeis at #32 makes it 7 Top 50 national universities in metro Boston.

  • James Miller on 09.10.2013 at 11:25 am

    Instead of focusing on achieving high rankings schools should focus on investing in scholarship and financial aid. Ranking systems have contributed to the vast rise in the cost of education as schools compete to out rank each other by spending money on new buildings (100 Bay State, new sports field in West, additions to the Law School and SMG) rather than broadening the scope of financial aid. The rise in the cost of education is outpacing how much financial aid is given per student and creating wealth disparities on all campuses.

  • RecentGrad on 09.10.2013 at 3:17 pm

    It really is great that BU made top 50. but LOL I love how most of these comments will actually be about affordability. The only real new expenses I support 100% are improvements to the Career Services. That’s why BU’s ranking of 17 on the list of “likely to be employed in the world” was so much more impressive to me. After all, what is the success of our institution without the employment of their graduates. But either way, congrats BU! I spent all that money for a damn good name on my degree.

  • Jonathan Krivine on 09.10.2013 at 6:32 pm

    AAU membership and now the dramatic UNSWR rankings jump are a stunning validation of President Brown’s competence. We are so lucky to have him.

  • alwan on 09.11.2013 at 1:07 am

    Good job and I see this as vindication for what many BU grads already know about the caliber of the school. BU is actually ranked much higher in other international ranking surveys like QS and the Times

  • WEIXIANG KING on 09.12.2013 at 3:54 pm

    I came to BU this year.

  • Sam on 09.18.2015 at 5:31 pm

    Proud to say that I go to such a school! I could not ask for a better education.

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