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UA slips a spot in U.S. News list

In ranking, Fayetteville campus in 6-way tie for No. 78 by Jaime Adame | September 13, 2021 at 7:04 a.m.
Old Main on the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville campus is shown in this Aug. 30, 2014, file photo. (NWA Democrat-Gazette file photo)

FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville saw its ranking drop one spot to 78th among public universities in U.S. News & World Report's national rankings published today.

UA tied with six others in the rankings category for public universities considered national.

The annual rankings aim to compare the academic quality of colleges and universities. Among the data used for the rankings are a school's six-year graduation rate and the results of a peer assessment survey on academic reputation.

Three other Arkansas universities -- Arkansas State University, University of Arkansas at Little Rock and University of Central Arkansas -- were not assigned a specific ranking but in a tier of public national schools ranked from 156th to 209th. They were ranked in a near identical tier a year earlier.

U.S. News describes national universities as having a wide range of majors, plus master's and doctoral programs.

A total of 209 public and 179 private universities, plus four for-profit universities, are considered national universities, as stated in a "Frequently Asked Questions" section of the U.S. News rankings.

UA-Fayetteville spokesman Mark Rushing did not respond to an email sent Friday requesting comment about the latest rankings.

Six years ago, UA ranked 62nd among public universities in the national category. Last year, Rushing said that U.S. News had "lowered the weighting of metrics like alumni giving and incoming student academic achievement, factors where the university ranks very well, creating a negative effect on where the university is ranked."

Criteria for the rankings, first published in 1983, change frequently.

This year, 40% of the rankings are based on student outcomes; 20% each on faculty resources and "expert opinion" given by college administrators; 10% on financial resources; 7% on "student excellence," which factors in ACT scores and the proportion of first-year students in the top 10% of their high school class; and 3% on alumni giving.

UA-Fayetteville's six-year graduation rate of 68.5% for a cohort of 4,518 students fell below the U.S. News predicted rate of 71%, according to university data and the rankings. The university's six-year graduation rate has increased in recent years, but the U.S. News rankings formula grades schools based on the characteristics of their students, coming up with a "predicted rate" for schools.

"The predicted rates were modeled from factors including admissions data, the proportion of undergraduates who were awarded Pell Grants, school financial resources, the proportion of federal financial aid recipients who are first-generation college students, and National Universities' math and science orientations," according to the U.S. News rankings methodology.

Among public and private national universities, Princeton University topped the latest rankings. UCLA ranked first among public universities. The two colleges held the same rankings a year ago.

UA-Fayetteville ranked 162th among public and private national universities, highest in the state but down two slots from a year earlier. UA-Fayetteville tied with nine other schools for the ranking.

The second-highest ranked national university in Arkansas was Harding University, a private Christian university in Searcy, which ranked 249th in a tie with 13 other schools. Harding had the same ranking a year ago.

Among other public universities considered national by U.S. News, Texas A&M University ranked in a tie for 26th and the University of Tennessee ranked in a tie for 46th.

The University of Missouri and the University of Kansas were each in a tie for 58th, and the University of Oklahoma ranked in a tie for 61st. The University of Mississippi ranked in a tie for 67th and Louisiana State University ranked in a tie for 85th.

In other categories, Hendrix College ranked in a tie for 98th out of 222 ranked national liberal arts colleges.

Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia ranked second among regional colleges in the south, with the University of the Ozarks, located in Clarksville, tied for fifth in the same category.

John Brown University ranked in a tie for 10th among regional universities in the South. Arkansas Tech University ranked 69th in the same category.

U.S. News & World Report also released a "Top Performers" ranking for social mobility, with rankings describing the methodology as based on "the extent schools enrolled and graduated students who received federal Pell Grants," a type of federal financial aid for students with exceptional need.

Among national universities, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock ranked highest among Arkansas schools at 143rd nationally, according to the social mobility rankings. UALR tied with nine other schools for the ranking. Arkansas State University, ranked 179th, was the only other Arkansas national university on the "Top Performers" list for social mobility.

Among regional universities in the South ranked for social mobility, John Brown University in Siloam Springs ranked in a tie for 42nd and Henderson State University in a tie for 67th. For regional colleges in the South ranked for social mobility, the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith ranked 5th and the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville ranked 18th.

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