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U.S. News & World Report picks Berkeley as top public school again
In other rankings, we're No. 1 overall (and No. 2, No. 4, No. 14, No. 21.). But please, don't grade us by our parking crunch alone

| 24 August 2006

U.S.News & World Report released its annual rankings of institutions of higher education last week, and once again the magazine named Berkeley as the best public university in the nation. Overall, according to the magazine's criteria, the campus came in tied for No. 21. (Princeton University topped the list.)

Annual college rankings have become a publishing industry gold mine, with some rankings more anticipated - and more respected - than others. In academia, the most respected evaluation is the National Research Council's peer-based rankings of graduate programs. But that list is issued only every 10 years or more, and the next ranking is not expected for another year.

So, in addition to the latest U.S. News rankings, we have assembled a selection of other recent college and university rankings to let you know where Berkeley stands in those, too.

The one universal truth in all these comparisons: There is no universal truth. How a school ranks will depend on the data a publication relies on, how it chooses to weight that data, and what it is that's being ranked in the first place. ("Best" means different things to different people.)

According to U.S. News & World Report's guide (titled America's Best Colleges 2007), the top national universities are all private schools, led by the East Coast trio of Princeton, Harvard, and Yale. Among public universities, six University of California campuses appear in the top 15. UC Berkeley continued its top ranking in the public-university category, although it dipped one spot, from 20th to 21st overall. All UC campuses dropped from one to six positions in national rank, except for Davis, which improved one position to 13th. UCLA dropped one position both nationally (to No. 26) and among public institutions (to No. 4). UC San Diego dropped six positions to 38th nationally, and one position to 8th among publics.

The categories and weightings used by the magazine to compile the rankings remain the same as last year. They include academic reputation, or peer assessment (25 percent), faculty resources (20 percent), graduation and retention (20 percent), student selectivity (15 percent), financial resources (10 percent), graduation-rate performance (5 percent), and alumni satisfaction or alumni giving rate (5 percent).

This year U.S. News also ranked undergraduate business and engineering programs and some sub-disciplines. These rankings are based solely on surveys of reputation by deans and senior faculty at accredited institutions, and in these Berkeley fares very well (see details below).

The U.S. News rankings have spawned a host of critics as well as a slew of alternatives. One of the most prominent of the alternatives is the relatively new Washington Monthly College Rankings, which seek to assess the degree to which colleges and universities (through the education they provide) benefit the nation. Using the yardsticks of social mobility, research, and public service, Washington Monthly puts Berkeley in second place in the nation for 2006, commenting: "UC schools continue to rule. Sorry, red-staters. By our yardstick, University of California, Berkeley is about the best thing for America we can find. It's good by all of our measurements."

Of course, there are plenty of other ways that magazines, newspapers, and others slice and dice college rankings. Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine ranks schools based on value (balancing academic quality against cost and financial aid). Berkeley ranked No. 12 for in-state students and No. 19 for out-of-state students in the 2006 listings.

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, which ranks leading universities on their "success in integrating African Americans," lists Berkeley at No. 19, tied with the University of Michigan. The journal notes that Berkeley faces a hurdle not of its own making: Proposition 209's ban on the use of affirmative action. But it faults Berkeley for its lack of black faculty and what it views as a low graduation rate for black students, though it notes that the rate has increased sharply in recent years.

Hispanic Magazine placed Berkeley at No. 14 on its list of the Top 25 Colleges for Latinos. The magazine's 2006 ratings balanced academic strength - relying on U.S. News & World Report's rankings - with such other factors as Hispanic enrollment; cultural programs, organizations, and support for Hispanic students; percentage of Hispanic faculty; and availability of financial aid.

Berkeley was recognized as one of the 20 best U.S. campuses for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students in The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students. Cal's positive environment, programs and services, and LGBT campus organizations were cited by the August 2006 publication. Billy Curtis, director of the campus's Gender Equity Resource Center, called the recognition "a result of many years of diligence and perseverance on the part of our LGBT campus student, faculty, and staff leaders as well as our many allies; who have worked tirelessly to create a welcoming environment for all at Cal."

At least two institutions have attempted to rank all top universities on a global basis. Shanghai Jiao Tong University has published its "Academic Ranking of World Universities" since 2003; in the current edition, Berkeley ranks No. 4 in the world, based on prize-winning faculty and alumni, research citations, and article publications.

Halfway around the world, the Times Higher Education Supplement in London put Berkeley in sixth place on its 2005 list of the world's top 200 universities, down from No. 2 in 2004, the rankings' debut year. THES rankings are based on surveys of research-active academics and employers, academic citations, and teacher-student ratio.

In the world of sports, Cal finished higher than ever in the Directors Cup standings this year, rising to seventh place on the strength of a second consecutive NCAA championship in women's crew and Top 5 finishes by women's golf, men's gymnastics, women's swimming and diving, and men's soccer. The Directors Cup - presented annually by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, United States Sports Academy, and USA Today -measures the best overall collegiate-athletics programs in the country, awarding points for national finishes in NCAA sports.

Professional schools are also ripe for media ranking, particularly in the fields of law and business. The Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive Business School Survey relies on the opinions of more than 2,000 corporate recruiters to select the top 50 MBA programs in the country; Berkeley's Haas School of Business came in at No. 7 in the 2005 survey. U.S. News & World Report publishes a separate ranking of the best business programs, based on a survey of deans and senior faculty; the Haas School tied for third place with the University of Michigan in this 2006 peer survey. Berkeley also received third-place rankings in the business sub-disciplines of finance and management, fourth-place rankings in marketing and real estate, and fifth-place rankings in international business and quantitative analysis/ methods.

The world of law also has a plethora of conflicting school rankings. To make it easier to compare and contrast these rankings, the website Top-law-schools.com has gathered the scores from five prominent surveys into a single table for 2007, showing that Berkeley's School of Law (Boalt Hall) ranges from first place (in the ranking by Thomas Brennan, former chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court) to eighth place (by U.S. News & World Report's reckoning).

In U.S. News's undergraduate-engineering rankings, Berkeley remained in a second-place tie with Stanford, behind top-ranked MIT. Among the engineering sub-disciplines, Berkeley ranked second in chemical, civil, materials, and mechanical; third in electrical/electronics/communications; fourth in computer engineering; and fifth in industrial/manufacturing.

U.S. News also includes several lists within its article that are not part of the overall rankings. Berkeley receives notice in several of these, including "Economic Diversity," a list of schools with the highest percentages of undergraduates receiving Pell grants. Berkeley placed first on the list with 34 percent. Under "Racial Diversity," the campus received a calculated diversity index of 0.62, which placed it 16th on the list of 20 schools. On the list of "Great Schools, Great Prices" - those whose students shoulder the least amount of education-related debt at graduation - Berkeley was ranked 14th. Finally, in a listing of outstanding academic programs, Berkeley was named for undergraduate research, study abroad, and service learning.

Then there's the fun side of college life. College Prowler, which advertises its college "reality" guides as "for students, by students," has compiled a set of rankings on everything from academics to nightlife. The survey of current students, which covers 200 colleges, ranks Berkeley as a solid B school (GPA 2.95). Although Cal received no A+ ratings, neither did it get any failing grades. Its scores ranged from A (for transportation, weather, and off-campus dining) to D (for parking).