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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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OPINION | Tulane’s ranking drops 30 points: Here’s why


On Monday, Sept. 18, U.S. News released their annual Best National University Rankings; Tulane University dropped 29 spots. In 2023, Tulane ranked at No. 44 for the nation’s best universities, while this year, Tulane ranked No. 73. What has caused such a massive drop in rankings in just a year?

U.S. News made their biggest changes to their ranking metrics in decades. This is a response to many who believe their rankings reflect a biased reality. Many institutions like Colorado College have stopped sharing their information with the newspaper because they believe the ranking does not promote diversity and an equitable admissions process. Even an institution like Princeton University, which consistently ranks in the top five, has labeled the ranking as “bizarre, ” unable to create a complete picture.

This year, U.S. News abandoned five of their previous metrics: class size, percentage of students in the top of their high school class, share of faculty with terminal degrees, level of alumni giving and the proportion of the graduates borrowing federal loans. The algorithm now places less importance on financial resources per student: the average cost spent per student on cost of instruction.  Eliminating these metrics affects small private schools such as Tulane, which typically have smaller class sizes and find value in hiring professors with professional degrees. Counterparts who have also fallen in this year include Wake Forest University, Brandeis University and Washington University in St. Louis. 

Furthermore, U.S. News changed their algorithm to place greater emphasis on graduation rates of students who received need-based Federal Pell Grants. The algorithm now considers the percentage of first-generation college students and whether graduates of a university earn more post-grad than people with only a high school degree. The newspaper added four metrics related to research: “citations per publication, field-weighted citation impact, share of publications cited in the top 5% of journals and the share of publications cited in the top 25% of journals.”    

In response to Tulane’s dropped ranking, President Michael A. Fitts said he was “shocked.” Should the Tulane community be shocked by this sudden drop, or is this a wake-up call? 

The main goal of U.S. News’ changed metrics is to create a ranking system that prioritizes equity. Only 8% of Tulane students are awarded Pell Grants, while nationwide, 34% of students receive Pell Grants. 

Diversity on college campuses helps foster a variety of ideas and research when students work with peers with different backgrounds than themselves. Diversity is an important and valid metric for ranking schools. It is imperative that universities value first-generation students and students with lower socioeconomic backgrounds to foster inclusivity and diverse thought on campus. Further, eliminating the metric that ranks schools based on the percentage of graduates with federal loans creates a more equitable algorithm for schools that accept more underprivileged students. This metric had inflated Tulane’s ranking since 69% of students come from families in the top 20% and may not need to rely on loans.

The U.S. News ranking accomplished its goal of creating an algorithm that promotes equity, but it may not truly demonstrate the rigor and strength of small private schools such as Tulane. Further, any dramatic changes in ranking reflect poorly on the reliability of these rankings to accurately determine a school’s stature. Tulane is an excellent school that may not have deserved such a harsh drop in ranking, but it is important that Tulane considers why this has happened. In part, the smaller class size metric has unfairly hurt Tulane’s ranking, but the school certainly does have room for improvement in diversity efforts. 

While the dropped ranking is frustrating to students and faculty who believe their hard work is not being reflected, Tulane should see this dropped ranking as an opportunity rather than an attack. This is an opportunity to reevaluate how Tulane operates and look to the future. Tulane’s motto is Non sibi, sed suis: not for one’s self, but for one’s own. The university prides itself on being an extraordinary academic community that supports each other’s differences, but in order to reach Tulane’s full potential, the university must value and encourage an increase in students of diverse backgrounds, including first-generation students and students with lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

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