University of Iowa loses ground in U.S. News rankings

ISU sees dips, improvement

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The 2016 U.S. News & World Report rankings are out, and the University of Iowa has lost some ground.

Its ranking among national universities slipped from No. 71 last year to No. 82 this year. Among the country’s top public schools, UI dropped out of the top 30, falling from No. 27 to No. 34. And the university lost its place among the top ten colleges for veterans, sliding from No. 10 to No. 67.

Iowa State University also moved down two spots among national universities — from No. 106 to No. 108. But ISU improved its ranking among public universities, going from No. 50 last year to No. 47. Iowa State did not make the list of top colleges for veterans last year, and this year it ranked No. 89.

Although University of Northern Iowa is not ranked nationally, among Midwest universities, it held steady with an overall No. 18 and No. 2 among public institutions. It also, for the first time, made the best colleges for veterans list among Midwest colleges — earning a spot at No. 6.

In response to the new rankings, UI Provost Barry Butler said the university has continued to improve in areas U.S. News uses to measure quality -- like graduation and retention rates, student selectivity, and financial resources. He said small adjustments in the placement of other institutions can influence UI’s rank.

“There are a number of elite academic institutions on these lists and to be included remains an honor and distinction,” Butler said. UI Registrar and Assistant Provost Larry Lockwood, who also is a veteran and has been involved in veteran accommodations on the UI campus, said he was surprised by the university’s drop on the colleges-for-veterans list.

“We are really doing a lot for the veterans when they come here — we make sure they are taken care of,” Lockwood said.

The university hasn’t changed what it’s doing for military service members, according to Lockwood. The UI Veteran Student Services Office offers more than a half dozen educational assistance programs, and Lockwood said the university’s veteran numbers are growing.

“We are at more than 700 right now, and the numbers keep going up,” he said. “I don’t put much faith in those rankings anymore, because we haven’t changed what we are doing for the vets.”

Lockwood speculated that one reason UI might have fallen down the list is that more schools nationally are stepping up and offering services similar to those at Iowa.

“A lot of schools have been putting a lot of effort into doing things for veterans,” he said. “But whether they rank us No. 67 or No. 10, we are not going to change the way we make sure veterans are treated.”

The U.S. News rankings — among the tools many high school students use to assess their higher education options — gauge academic programs at undergraduate institutions, ranking eligible schools on up to 16 measures of academic excellence. U.S. News report also produces separate rankings for graduate programs, which typically are updated in the spring.

The 2016 undergraduate edition made public this week assessed data from nearly 1,800 colleges and universities, including information on student borrowing, costs, and graduation rates. The rankings also are based on academic reputation, retention, and faulty resources.

Ranking indicators and indicator weights were unchanged from the 2015 to 2016 editions. This year, however, academic peer scores were based on the two most recent sets of survey results to reduce year-to-year volatility, according to U.S. News.

Among national universities — those institutions focused on research while offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees — Princeton University ranked No. 1, followed by Harvard University at No. 2, and Yale University at No. 3.

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