UM’s diversity could negatively affect US News Rankings

The University of Miami’s spot at no. 50 on the US News and World Report’s annual ranking of the best colleges might not be an accurate assessment of the school for potential students.

“What is ranked as the number one school on this list might be a disaster for some students,” Mary Sapp, the assistant vice-president of planning and institutional research at UM, said. “Different schools emphasize different things.”

Sapp continued to say that if a student wanted diversity, then UM would probably be on the top of their list.

However, UM’s diverse student body, rated no. 1 by the Princeton Review for race and class interaction, had a detrimental effect on the school’s spot on these rankings conducted by US News and World Report.

The foreign members of the student body that speak English as a second language are going to be at a disadvantage when taking the SAT or ACT, according to Sapp. These test results account for 7.5 percent of the university’s score on the US News and World Report’s ranking.

Also, UM accepts more financially disadvantaged students than private schools ranked better on the list.

Sapp said this lack of financial resources is detrimental to the university’s graduation rate as many students simply run out of money for their education. Graduation rates account for five percent of the score.

US News acknowledges the amount of students that accept Pell Grants, a need-based aid, as having an effect on the predicted graduation rate, but Sapp said there is no correction factor to account for the resulting lower score.

“It would be too complicated to do so,” she said.

UM moved up a spot despite losing points in the Peer Assessment Survey, which is given to hundreds of colleges’ presidents, provosts, and deans of admission. These administrators are asked to rank the academic quality of other undergraduate institutions. Sapp said the results can carry bias.

In a presentation this summer at the annual forum of the Association for Institutional Research in Atlanta, Catherine Watt, a director of a research center at Clemson, explained that Clemson officials gave schools they competed against a below average ranking in these surveys.

Clemson has denied these charges.

However, Sapp did say that these rankings were useful to reference if a student agrees on the criteria that these schools are being graded on and compared schools on this list in clusters.

The difference in scores between schools ranked close together is too small to show real difference. UM ranked two points behind Florida, which was in a three way tie at 47.

“The top 10 schools are better than the schools ranked 40 to 50,” Sapp said. “And the schools in the 40s and 50s are better than the schools in the 70s.”

Diversity at UM

UM’s no. 1 ranking in the Princeton Review’s “Best 371 Colleges,” for race and class interaction is a natural part of the university.

“The university has always been interested in diversity,” Edward Gills, the assistant vice president for enrollment management and executive director of admission, said. “It defines us and we celebrate it.”

This ranking was determined by surveying about 325 students from all colleges listed in the book. These individuals were asked to rate their college on several topics including the race and class interaction.

“The local surroundings are very diverse. People that want diversity see that and come here and it starts to feed on itself,” Gills said.