Emory University did it again.
In rankings released Tuesday by U.S. News & World Report, the university scored among the nation’s top colleges. Emory has held on to the No. 20 spot for the last four years — including when officials sent the magazine inflated figures about its students.
It was tied with two other schools, Georgetown University and the University of California-Berkeley.
Emory acknowledged last year it had spent more than a decade intentionally misreporting data to groups that rate colleges, sending a shock wave through academic circles and providing ammunition to rankings critics who worry about manipulation. Starting last year, it has certified that the information it sent was accurate.
“Emory’s eminent faculty, engaged scholars and diverse and rich academic environment have established (it) as a leading center of discovery, teaching and learning,” Emory Provost Claire Sterk said in a statement. “External recognition is gratifying, but our focus continues to be on providing the best possible academic experience for our students.”
Other Georgia schools scoring well include Georgia Tech, ranked No. 36 nationally out of the more than 200 top tier schools listed in the combined ranking of both private and public institutions (it scored No. 7 among the nation’s top public universities); Spelman and Morehouse colleges, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively as the country’s best historically black colleges; and Mercer University, ranked No. 8 among the South’s best regional universities.
Many students and parents look at the rankings when deciding where to apply to school, with some refusing to consider schools that fail to earn a high mark. Colleges with strong spots advertise their standing in promotional materials, knowing it attracts academic prestige and higher-caliber students.
Emory was never able to fully determine when and why the misreporting began, although outside experts reasoned it was driven by the pressure to keep its top 20 school.
The school previously sent test score data for admitted students instead of those who had enrolled, which inflated the school’s reported SAT and ACT test scores. It also overstated the percentage of incoming students who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. And it “may have” excluded the scores of the bottom 10 percent of students when reporting information about incoming classes, officials said last year.
Emory has taken steps to make sure data is reported correctly. Among them, a university-wide advisory committee is charged with ensuring the institution is following the rules.
U.S. News magazine officials changed the methodology for the rankings this year for the first time since 2011, although they said it was unrelated to misreporting such as what happened at Emory. Among the changes, they increased the importance of results such as student graduation and retention rates and decreased the weight of things like a student’s high school class ranking.
“Do I think our rankings are tainted by the misreportings? No,” said Robert Morse, the magazine’s director of data research. “The fact we’ve been been transparent … has made our system stronger.”
Notably, Emory fared just fine in one of the largest factors used in the magazine’s analysis: a survey of what other top college officials and high school counselors think of the school. That counted for 22.5 percent of Emory’s score. Last year’s surveys were turned in before Emory disclosed its data deception, so Morse had said it wouldn’t be known until this year whether the situation harmed the school’s reputation.
Tina Daniel, a high school counselor and board member of the Georgia School Counselors Association, said her students and families still think Emory is a great school, adding that college rankings are helpful but not the sole deciding factor about where to attend college. The misreporting “really has not come up at all,” she said.
“College admission has many variables,” Daniel said. “This is just one piece of information students and families will look at as they make their decisions.”
Emory University has been a top 20 school for more than 20 years. Here’s where the school landed in recent years:
Source: U.S. News & World Report and Emory University
OTHER GEORGIA COLLEGES
Several Georgia colleges appeared in the U.S. News rankings. Here are some examples:
- Georgia Tech: No. 7 among national public universities and No. 36 among national public and private universities.
- University of Georgia: No. 20 among national public universities and tied with Southern Methodist University at No. 60 among national public and private universities.
- Spelman College: No. 1 among historically black colleges.
- Morehouse College: No. 2 among historically black colleges.
- Mercer University: No. 8 among the South’s best regional universities.
Source: U.S. News & World Report, Best Colleges 2014.
U.S. News uses statistical data and subjective surveys when ranking colleges. Here are the weighted measures for “Best National Universities, ” a category that includes Emory University, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia:
- Undergraduate academic reputation: 22.5%
- Graduation and retention rates: 22.5%
- Faculty resources: 20%
- Student selectivity: 12.5%
- Financial resources 10%
- Graduation rate performance*: 7.5%
- Alumni giving: 5%
*Graduation rate performance is the difference between actual and predicted graduation rates.
Source: U.S. News & World Report, Best Colleges 2014.