In the 2019 edition of college rankings, USF was ranked No. 96 in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges list of National Universities, the school’s first time in the past decade being in the publication’s top 100 list.
On Niche, another college ranking source, USF claimed the No. 1 spot in the “Best College Locations in America” category and came in 24th place for “Best Catholic College in America.”
According to U.S. News & World Report’s website, colleges and universities are grouped into lists based on “academic mission.” For “National Universities,” World Report defines the category as, “[schools that] offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and doctoral programs and emphasize faculty research.”
Niche categorizes schools differently from World Report, using letter grades instead of numbers. It also ranks schools on lists that describe specific strengths: majors, location, diversity, resources, dorms, athletics, greek life, student life, among others. For example, Niche included USF on its “Best Colleges in America for Nursing” list. World Report does not do this. USF received an overall Niche grade of “A-.”
Both Niche and U.S. News & World Report base their rankings on categories that each have different weights.
World Report says on their website that they use numerous categories for the 2019 rankings, which included the six-year graduation rate, peer assessments from faculty at other universities, financial resources, class size, graduation rate, faculty salary, SAT/ACT scores, alumni giving and first-year retention rate.
USF reports some of its data in these categories to World Report on an annual basis, according to Provost Donald E. Heller.
For Niche rankings, they rely more on a combination of online reviews and U.S. Department of Education Data (DOE). Provost Heller said that Niche does not request information from USF.
“We don’t have [a] program in place specifically to move up in the rankings,” Heller said in an email interview. “A number of things that we do as part of our normal course of business help us [in the rankings].”
For example, the World Report ranking placed a substantial amount of weight on six-year graduation rate performance this year. Heller said, “[USF does] very well in this measure, because our actual graduation rates are higher than would be predicted by the demographics of our student body and our graduation rates have been improving in recent years.”
According to the DOE’s most recent set of data, USF had a 72 percent six-year graduation rate.
Senior Brandon Wong said rankings were one of the factors that he considered when deciding what school to attend.
“I feel like USF deserves to be higher than it [is] because of qualitative factors that should put USF in a higher position,” Wong said. “Friends of mine feel very unappreciated and undervalued despite the post-graduation possibilities that come with a USF [degree].”
Heller couldn’t say for certain where USF will be in the next upcoming years due to changing metrics but he “certainly hope[s] that we will continue to see improvements [in our rankings].”