By TIFFANY PING
The naming of a BYU student to USA Today’s Academic 1st Team adds to the reputation BYU has created through a string of school rankings this year.
The most famous ranking: No. 1 stone-cold sober school by the Princeton Review.
Other Princeton Review rankings include No. 2 in best quality of life and No. 3 in great college library.
U.S. News and World Report ranked the Marriott School of Management No. 29 on the list of America’s top 100 business schools, while the J. Ruben Clark Law School moved up to No. 31 on the list of America’s top 100 law schools.
BYU also ranked No. 5 in best academic bang for your buck in the Princeton Review rankings, and No. 2 in best-cost value college in America on Kiplinger.com.
“At BYU, we do care about our students’ living environment,” said Carri Jenkins, assistant to the president for University Communications. “For this reason, we are always happy with our No. 1 stone-cold sober ranking by the Princeton Review. As we point out to the media, however, this always goes hand-in-hand with our high ranking in the quality of life area, which last year was No. 2. We hope these rankings will reflect who we are and can help others appreciate and understand more about the university.”
But what do all these rankings mean? How do they affect BYU?
“It’s a signal to us of possibly things we need to improve upon,” said Ned Hill, dean of the Marriott School of Management. “When you look at the rankings, you look at why we weren’t ranked as high as we should. Sometimes, we might be ranked one way and there’s nothing we can do about. They are good feedback to us.”
Each year, the Wall Street Journal, Princeton Review and U.S. News and World Report put out lists of college rankings in different categories such as best values, top 100 national universities, best academic bang for your buck or best value private college.
Each year, BYU takes its place among some of America’s top Ivy League schools.
“On the whole, BYU’s rankings have increased each year,” Jenkins said. “The rankings are important if they accurately reflect what we are doing at the university. However, we seek improvement not to rise in the rankings, but to provide a superb education for our students.”
Each year, students fill out either paper or online surveys conducted by institutions like the Princeton Review. The institution analyzes the data from the students telling about the college or university they attend.
“The rankings themselves are based on the student feedback we get from the surveys,” said Erik Olson, senior editor of “The Best 351 Colleges” by the Princeton Review. “We came up with the calculations that produce the rankings themselves, and we decided what the rankings would be, but the students themselves are the ones determining which schools appear and which places on those lists.”
Rankings are published annually to help high school graduates decide which college to attend.
“We at the Princeton Review believe in informed decision-making,” Olson said. “This is one of the biggest and most costly decisions that a young person makes. And to do that blindly, or to do that with only one or two sources of information, is not very strategic. It’s not more and absolutely no less than that. It is one piece of your decision-making process.”
Representatives of the U.S. News and World Report said they agree with the Princeton Review in their purpose in conducting these rankings.
“Our rankings are statistical in nature,” said Richard Folkers, the director of media relations for U.S. News and World Report. “We survey academics to find their peer assessment of schools, and we collect objective data, all of which comprise a ranking. We focus on providing information to students and parents attempting to make an important decision, rather than on how a school could change its standing.”
BYU also gathers data and information to better study the university. The Freshman Academy, for example, was created as a way to improve BYU’s freshmen retention rate. BYU is also working to reduce class sizes, especially within the major courses, Jenkins said.
Rankings also help bring recruiters to BYU. Since recruiters cannot visit every school, they select universities with high rankings to find top students in the nation, Hill said.
However, the university cannot change everything because of a low ranking. Hill said one aspect institutions look at when ranking colleges is the amount of money the alumni make. BYU professors teach students to work, but they also teach students to make time for their families and church callings.
“You can’t chase rankings because their factors may not line up with what you think is important,” Hill said.