UM drops seven spots in diversity ranking

The University of Miami once held the No. 1 spot for being the most diverse college campus in Princeton Review’s 2011 guidebook, The Best 373 Colleges. But when the 2013 guidebook, The Best 376 Colleges, was released last week – UM was ranked No. 8 – a demotion of seven spots in the category of diversity, known as “Race/Class Interaction.”

Although the Princeton Review, which was first published in 1992, and is not typically considered the benchmark for institutional rankings, it is one of the few that evaluates diversity as an important factor in a college setting.

“We’re generally recognized, call it one, two or eight, for the strength of the diversity in our student population. Three-hundred and sixty-seven colleges didn’t get listed in the top 10 so each of those 10 are doing something important and recognized about diversity,” Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc said. “Whenever a relative ranking changes, there are at least three possibilities. One is that we changed. The other is that somebody else changed, and the third thing is the way they measure or how accurate they measure changed. I don’t know which of those three could apply in this case.”

Instead of gathering numerical data such as individual university graduation rates, freshmen retention rates and SAT scores, the Princeton Review surveys 122,000 students. Approximately 325 students from every campus participate in this process and complete a questionnaire consisting of 80 open and closed-ended questions that can be submitted via email or online.

The 376 Best Colleges List is predominately geared toward students. It ranks universities using categories such as how hard you have to study, best weather, and party schools. It allows prospective students to get the gist of what they want their college experience to be like.

“It’s intended to be a look on the inside, but it’s not very scientific, it’s not very repeatable and it’s easily manipulated,” LeBlanc said. “For the students I think it’s fun and in some ways might give them a sense of the place.”

The most highly regarded institutional ranking, U.S. News and World Report, is set to be released in the next few weeks. Student surveys and diversity are not part of the judging criteria, but a well-known survey accounts for 25 percent of the total score each university receives.

“I think it is unfortunate that the U.S. News ranking does not consider diversity at all. Not just because it is a strength of UM, but also because it is an important characteristic when you’re measuring these schools,” LeBlanc said.