Temple tied with eight other schools for 106th among 312 national colleges and universities ranked by U.S. News and World Report in its 2019 edition of Best Colleges on Sept. 10.
This is the university’s highest U.S. News ranking ever. Temple jumped nine spots from last year’s 2018 Best Colleges list when it placed 115th among 300 national universities.
Temple was also ranked 93rd out of 145 national universities by U.S. News for Best Value Schools and 46th out of 132 Top Public Schools in the 2019 report.
This year’s rankings follow the Fox School of Business’ removal from U.S. News’ 2018 business program rankings after an investigation by Jones Day found the school knowingly submitted falsified data to the report since 2014. Fox held the No. 1 ranking for its online MBA program for three consecutive years.
Fox remains unranked in the 2019 edition of Best Business Schools and programs relating to business.
Changing rankings culture
In light of the longtime strive for coveted high rankings which led to the misrepresentation of Fox, the university, as well as some current and prospective students, wonder how accurately the U.S. News’ rankings represent a college or program’s success.
When the university ranked 115th in the 2018 edition of Best Colleges, it released the news on its Strategic Marketing and Communications page, Temple Now, while this year it did not.
University spokesman Brandon Lausch wrote in a statement to The Temple News that while it is positive to see the university moving up in this year’s Best Colleges rankings, what is “most important to the university is the high quality and breadth of our academic offerings, as well as the accomplishments of our talented and hardworking students.”
“The university’s ongoing commitment to help students Fly in 4, thereby limiting debt, sets our graduates on a pathway to achieve their professional and personal goals as soon as possible,” Lausch added.
The university’s four-year graduation rate increased from 48 to 52 percent between Fall 2016 and Spring 2018, according to the Temple University Factbook.
Ciara Haughan, a 16-year-old senior at Central Columbia High School in Bloomsburg, Pa., said that she is first taking her teachers’ and counselors’ recommendations into consideration during her college selection process, then checking schools’ U.S. News rankings.
“I think the rankings, sometimes they don’t account for everything,” Haughan said. “… You don’t always have to look at the rankings because they aren’t [and] shouldn’t be your only deciding factor. You should ask more about it from people who have gone there and who are going there, and what they believe about the school.”
Haughan is interested in studying business at Fox based on her teachers’ suggestions. She said she visited Main Campus and is considering the university more for its urban environment, active student community, closeness to home and academics.
Similarly, freshman finance major Jiffarae Hawaz said Fox’s data misreporting did not impact her view of of the school, and she recognized its high rankings in previous years when she decided to pursue a business degree.
“The rating of the business program is really what made me want to come here more than anything, really,” Hawaz said.
Hawaz said that Temple’s overall improvement in the 2019 edition of Best Colleges represents the quality of the location, diversity and extracurriculars at the university.
“That makes me feel more happy about my decision of coming here,” Hawaz said.
More cases of misreporting
U.S. News removed rankings from eight other college and university programs on Aug. 22 after they notified U.S. News that they had misreported data to the 2018 edition of Best Colleges.
The schools, Austin Peay State University, Dakota Wesleyan University, Drury University, Hampton University, Oklahoma City University, Randolph College, Saint Martin’s University and St. Louis University, self-reported their inaccuracies three weeks before the release of the 2019 edition on Sept. 10.
Most of the schools said publicly that the incorrect data were due to human mistakes and were not committed with the intent of falsely increasing the schools’ ratings.
Colleges and universities are expected to self-report accurate data and then complete a verification process. The data colleges submit are assessed by third-party reviewers and tested against the previous year’s submissions.
U.S. News analysts “rigorously” review data, and schools are asked to confirm or revise submissions, according to an article about the rankings process written by U.S. News Chief Data Strategist Robert Morse.
Morse did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
In the 2019 edition of the Best Colleges rankings, U.S. News changed its methodology for ranking universities in its various categories. Schools are graded based on only the data they report that represent student outcomes, faculty resources, expert opinion, financial resources, student excellence and alumni giving.
For the 2019 Best Colleges rankings, Morse wrote that student outcome — the retention, graduation and social mobility of students — increased weight from 30 to 35 percent of a schools rank. Expert opinion, which asks school administrators to assess the academic quality of other institutions, went down in weight from 22.5 to 20 percent.
Student excellence, such as standardized test scores of enrollees and high school class standing, decreased weight in the rankings from 12.5 to 10 percent.
Two of the eight schools unranked in August, Hampton University and Oklahoma City University, said that the errors were due to changes in U.S. News’ calculation of graduation rates.
“During the previous year’s rankings, [U.S. News] changed the way they requested the graduation rate data,” Rod Jones, the assistant director of media relations at Oklahoma City University wrote in a statement to The Temple News. “In complying with that request, we found a small discrepancy in our original report.”
The six other schools blamed human errors and data submission procedures or misunderstandings that caused misreporting.
Randolph College Director of College Relations Brenda Edson wrote in a statement to The Temple News that the college’s misreported data was a keystroke error that led the school to report 14 associate professors rather than four. The error increased Randolph’s average faculty salary average and ultimately made the school’s 2018 ranking higher.
“The current situation with U.S. News and World Report is the result of the college self-correcting a small but important error,” Edson wrote. “This correction was made on Randolph’s own initiative and without prompting from U.S. News.”
Bill Persinger, executive director of public relations and marketing at Austin Peay State University, said the college’s data was misreported partially because of the lack of a director in the department that gathers and sends data to U.S. News.
Unlike the Fox School of Business, none of the eight other schools that lost their 2018 rankings found intentional fraud to be the reason for misreporting and placed blame on either human error or U.S. News methodology.