The University continued to fall in this year’s U.S. News and World Report annual rankings of the country’s best colleges, released today.

At 29th place on this year’s rankings, the University fell two spots from its 2010 ranking last year and three spots from its 2009 ranking of 26th overall. In 2006, the University ranked as the 24th best overall in the country.

Among the country’s public institutions, the University remained in 4th this year, behind University of California — Berkeley, University of California — Los Angeles and University of Virginia — where former University Provost Teresa Sullivan became the school’s president at the beginning of the month.

However, the University used to rank 2nd among public universities, holding the spot in both 2006 and 2007.

A press release issued by the University indicated that officials did not place much value in the rankings.

“While University officials are pleased that U-M consistently is ranked as one of the nation’s finest universities by U.S. News & World Report, they also note that this type of strict ranking of schools is not the most accurate measure of the quality of an institution,” the press release stated.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the University was happy with its continued success in ranking among the top academic institutions in the country in multiple areas.

However, Fitzgerald emphasized that national rankings can be somewhat deceptive until the evaluation methodology is fully understood. Fitzgerald explained that some rankings, for instance, use the amount of money spent per student by the university as a measure of quality, but that a university may be able to provide the same quality of services at a less expensive rate in some cases.

Fitzgerald also said rankings can sometimes give the false impression that one school is the best choice for all students.

“You can’t just go down the rankings and pick the highest ranking schools and say, ‘This is the best school for me,’ ” Fitzgerald said. “(There are) lots of other factors that go into what makes the best place for an individual student to attend.”

University President Mary Sue Coleman has made similar remarks in the past, telling The Michigan Daily in 2007 that the real difference between the top schools on the ranking list is very small.

“The U.S. News can change the weight they put on the parameters and get dramatically different results,” Coleman told the Daily in 2007. “I think a belief that somehow there’s a huge difference among top schools in the rankings is just a fallacy.”

And at least some of the change in this year’s rankings appears to be the result of some alterations to the formula used by U.S. News and World Report to rank institutions.

An explanation on U.S. News and World Report’s website of the methodology used in this year’s rankings showed the organization had increased the degree to which graduation rate performance affects the final score, increasing the metric from 5 percent of the overall score to 7.5 percent of the overall score.

The measure is found by comparing a school’s graduation rate to U.S. News and World Report’s predicted graduation rate for the school, which is calculated after analyzing the school’s resources and student test scores.

Another change made to this year’s ranking methodology included giving high school guidance counselors a chance to provide feedback on the quality of schools across the country. The new peer-evaluation measure gives the voice of high school counselors the ability to affect 7.5 percent of the overall score.

However, with increased weights in these two areas, U.S. News and World Report cut back on how much it’s rankings rely on peer evaluations from University administrators. In the past, U.S. News and World Report have given university presidents, provosts and deans a 25 percent say in which colleges are the best. However, this year, the opinions of the academic administrators were only counted for 15 percent of the overall schools’ scores.

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