By Christina Cox and Olivia Marcus
SMU dropped from 58th to 61st in the 2016 U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges Report.”
Only two other Texas universities placed above SMU in the rankings, with Rice University at No. 18 and University of Texas at Austin at No. 52. Texas A&M, Baylor and TCU followed at No. 70, 72, and 82 respectively.
The report, published earlier this week, ranks 1,800 U.S. colleges on 16 different academic criteria. The exact formula for the rankings is kept secret.
Despite SMU’s slight decline in rankings, administrators seem positive about this year’s results.
“We are pleased once again to be among the top 1/3 of the top tier of national universities,” said Wes Waggoner, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management– ad interim. “That is a position that many, many colleges aspire to be in.”
Waggoner said SMU will look at the U.S. News & World Report rankings to see if there is anything the university can learn from the results.
Hilary McIlvain, Director of BBA Admissions, believes the rankings are reputational and could be biased because of the interviews the news source conducts with deans and presidents.
“SMU has had a lot of momentum and in the end this is not a good indicator,” McIlvain said. “Rankings don’t bring together all the information…they don’t cover every detail.”
Junior John Schweitzer sees the rankings as “insignificant,” stating that there should be a correlation between SMU’s increasing tuition and rankings.
“I read an article that we are in the top 20 most expensive schools, so shouldn’t that mean we should be in the top academic schools too?” he said.
This is a question SMU is attempting to tackle with its Operational Excellence for the Second Century (OE2C) initiative that is working to “strengthen the economic vitality of SMU” while pursuing an overall, administrative goal of making SMU a “Top 50 University.”
Waggoner said OE2C still positions SMU as a stronger university by providing support for its academic programs.
“In that sense, the long-term results from OE2C will certainly support the goal of making SMU one of the premier academic institutions in the United States,” he said.
Waggoner also noted that the results released this year are based on data from the 2013-2014 academic year.
“It’ll just take longer than a year, I think the rankings will eventually go up,” senior Emma Blackwood said. “You can’t just move up to the top 50, it takes some time.”
It will be interesting to see where SMU will place in the upcoming years as the OE2C Initiative reaches its final stages this spring.
Until then, staff and administrators are realistic about the future and challenge before them.
“Schools in the top 50 are also doing very well so there isn’t a lot of movement or room to fit in,” McIlvain said. “SMU has great momentum but each move up will get tougher.”