Iowa State University moved up as many spots as the University of Iowa moved down in a new national ranking of colleges and universities.
Iowa State jumped four spots to tie for No. 81 among all national universities,while Iowa fell four spots to No. 63 in the 2007 U.S. News and World Report university rankings,which were released Friday.
Iowa State tied for the 36th best overall public university,while Iowa tied for No. 25.
The national rankings have been regarded as a visible indicator of universities' performance. The most heavily weighed factors are peer administrators' assessments,student retention and faculty resources.
Susan Carlson,interim provost at Iowa State,said the rankings measure aspects the university measures itself,such as class size,student retention and graduation.
“We know from our own data that we've improved in those areas,” she said.
UI Provost Michael Hogan said there's a simple reason Iowa slid a bit.
“Our performance was exactly the same this year as last year,” he said. “What really happened is not that our performance changed much,it's that other universities improved their performance in certain areas faster than we did.”
The University of Northern Iowa jumped one spot in the rankings to 18th among the Midwest region for universities where master's degrees are the highest degree awarded in most areas.
Iowa State's learning community program,in which students live and study together,was highlighted as being among the best in the country,though Carlson said the university still wants to make it better.
“We really do believe it's a core feature of how we make that first year experience rewarding,” Carlson said. “You can't get on your laurels in that kind of area.”
Hogan said the survey focuses on important areas,though it could go deeper.
“While I don't think it measures everything that is important,what it does measure is important,” he said.
Iowa received a special nod for its emphasis on writing in its academic disciplines.
Hogan said that students,parents and faculty are examining rankings on a more frequent basis.
“It helps us to recruit good students and recruit and retain good faculty,” he said. “For some,it's a matter of prestige – a kind of beauty contest.”
The ISU College of Engineering ranked 39th overall – a three spot drop – while Iowa's program ranked 53rd.
Mark Kushner,dean of the ISU College of Engineering,said that,while he is disappointed by the drop,he questions the survey's methodology,which is based on engineering program deans' ranking of other schools on a scale of 1 to 5.
“It's very difficult to make large moves either up or down based on that qualitative assessment,” he said.
Kushner said the introduction of a $250 per semester tuition surcharge for engineering juniors and seniors to hire more faculty should improve the college's future standing.
“Realistically,I believe we're a college that should be ranked in the low 20s,” he said,“and if we're successful with these initiatives,I'd hope it would be something higher.”
For Iowa State to improve,Carlson said the university needs to increase its funding from the state and donors.
“We need to make sure we have sufficient resources to provide the quality of education we want to provide,” she said. “We know students pay a lot in tuition and they need a good product for their contribution.”