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The U.S. News 2001 College Rankings

October 18, 2001
Contact: Bill Giduz 704/894-2244 or bigiduz@davidson.edu

Major Factors and Calculations

The seven factors that comprise the U.S. News scores used to rank the colleges in 2001 are described below. There are no reported changes from last year's factors, weights, and calculations. The category in which Davidson is ranked, National Liberal Arts Colleges, included 218 institutions.

Academic Reputation. Davidson received an average score of 4.2.
Reputation counts for 25% of the total score and is based on a 1 ("marginal") to 5 ("distinguished") scale. Data come from a survey mailed to presidents, admissions officers, and chief academic officers within the same Carnegie classification. That is, respondents at private liberal arts colleges are asked to rate other private liberal arts colleges, respondents at research universities are asked to rate other research universities, and so on. The survey on which these ratings were based was mailed to 4,067 individuals, of whom 67% responded.

Graduation and Retention. Davidson is ranked 5th.
These measures account for 20% of the total score. They include the six-year graduation rate (16%) for the freshmen cohorts entering the college from 1991-1994 and the average freshmen-to-sophomore retention rate (4%) for the cohorts entering the college from 1996-1999.

Graduation Rate Performance. Davidson achieved a +6 on a continuum ranging, for the top schools, from -8 to +11.
This factor accounts for 5% of the total score. It is measured as the difference between the predicted six-year graduation rate for the class entering in 1994 and the actual rate six-year graduation rate of that cohort. The predicted rate is based on a formula that includes standardized tests scores and the college's expenditures on students.

Faculty Resources. Davidson is ranked 24th.
Resources related to faculty account for 20% of the total score. This factor is based on academic year 2000-2001 and is comprised of class size (8% of the total score), proportion of faculty with highest terminal degree (3%), student/faculty ratio (1%), and proportion of faculty that is full time (1%). Faculty compensation (7% of the total score) is based on average salary and benefits for the years 1999-2000 and 2000-2001and is adjusted for cost of living by region.

Student Selectivity. Davidson is ranked 12th.
Selectivity provides 15% of the total score and is based on freshmen SAT or ACT scores (6%), proportion of freshmen who graduated in the top 10% of their high school class (5%), acceptance rate (2%), and yield (2%) for the class entering in the Fall of 2000.

Financial Resources. Davidson is ranked 28th.
Financial resources account for 10% of the total score. They are measured by the average spending per student on instruction, research, student services, and related educational expenditures averaged over fiscal years 1999 and 2000.

Alumni Giving Rate. Davidson is ranked 9th.
This factor is used as a proxy for alumni satisfaction and accounts for 5% of the total score. It is based on the average percentage of alumni who gave during the 1999 and 2000 academic years.

Graduation Rate.
In addition to its overall ranking of 10 on the list of National Liberal Arts Colleges, Davidson is included in the U.S. News list of schools with the Highest Graduation Rates. Only three schools among the National Liberal Arts Colleges reported higher graduation rates than Davidson.

Cautions and Caveats

It is important to keep the following in mind when reviewing the 2001 results.

  • It can be difficult to interpret exactly what an institution's "rank" means. When U.S. Newsincorporated rounding of overall scores five years ago, resulting in tied scores, they essentially made the ranking placement issue moot. Our position is more affected by what happens elsewhere on the list than any subtle changes on the Davidson campus.
  • Since the ranking scheme depends not just on what happens at Davidson but on what happens everywhere else, it is theoretically possible--and indeed it happens--to evidence no change whatsoever in our overall score or any component of that score and yet radically change position on the list. One very clear example of that phenomenon is retention rates. Davidson reported 96% retention of freshmen in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2001; its rank on freshmen retention went from 6th in 1995 to 2nd in 1998 to 5th in 2001. No change in the retention rate resulted in rank changes in both directions.
  • U.S. News has incorporated methodological changes nearly every year, including rounding of overall scores, changes in weights assigned to variables, changes in factor components, and utilization of different scales. The effect of these changes on the scores assigned to institutions is difficult to determine. In addition, the number of institutions included within Davidson's category has changed as a result of the new Carnegie classifications. There are now 218 institutions included for the National Liberal Arts Colleges rankings, up from 162 last year.
  • The least straightforward of the factors used to calculate an institution's overall score--academic reputation--changed from a percentage score through 1996 to a four-point scale in 1997 to a five-point scale in 1998. In addition to the complications of devising comparative indices under such conditions, the psychological impact of scale construction on respondents cannot be underestimated. This variable accounts for fully 25% of the overall score, making year to year comparisons all but impossible.
  • In fact, regression analysis on the major factor loadings indicates that not only is academic reputation the variable most closely correlated with the overall rank but that it is the only variable whose significance level does not reliably (in the statistical sense) diminish as other variables are added to the equation. Yet there is no research that has been done to assess the construct validity of academic reputation (as determined by presidents, chief academic officers, and chief admission officers) as a signpost for academic quality.
  • Not all variables align neatly with overall rank. For financial resources and faculty resources, the variance within the group of top institutions is greater than the statistical variance between the top group and the second tier.

    Major Factor Ranks and Scores for the Top 25 National Liberal Arts Colleges

    The following table presents the top national liberal arts colleges and their ranks (or scores, as appropriate) on the major factors that comprise the U.S. News rankings. The full set of data is available in the Office of Planning and Institutional Research. Historical analyses for Davidson College and its peers are also available.

     

    U.S. News College Rankings 2001:Major Factors

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Score:

    Rank:

    Rank:

    Rank:

    Rank:

    Differential:

    Rank:

    Rank

    College

    Academic

    Graduation

    Faculty

    Student

    Financial

    Graduation

    Alumni

     

     

    Reputation

    Retention

    Resources

    Selectivity

    Resources

    Rate

    Giving

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1

    Amherst

    4.8

      1

    21

      4

    13

      +7

      1

     

    Swarthmore

    4.7

      3

      5

      2

      2

      +1

      5

    3

    Williams

    4.8

      2

    19

      1

      7

      +3

      4

    4

    Wellesley

    4.6

    12

    16

    14

      1

      +4

    37

    5

    Bowdoin

    4.5

      7

    77

      9

      8

      +3

      6

     

    Carleton

    4.5

      8

      7

    15

    23

      +2

      3

     

    Haverford

    4.4

      6

    28

      7

    21

      +4

    20

     

    Pomona

    4.3

      8

      8

      5

      6

      -5

    33

    9

    Middlebury

    4.3

    10

    31

      8

      4

      +3

    36

    10

    Davidson

    4.2

      5

    24

    12

    28

      +6

      9

    11

    Grinnell

    4.3

    21

      4

    28

    11

      -1

    20

     

    Wesleyan

    4.4

    14

    48

    13

    17

      +3

    27

    13

    Washington and Lee

    3.9

    16

      1

    10

    30

      +1

      8

    14

    Harvey Mudd

    4.2

    29

    61

      3

    10

     -11

    51

     

    Smith

    4.4

    30

    18

    27

    15

      +1

    28

     

    Vassar

    4.2

    17

    25

    16

    22

      +4

    55

    17

    Bryn Mawr

    4.3

    34

    22

    23

    13

      -6

    32

     

    Claremont McKenna

    4.0

    17

    67

      6

    12

      -1

    16

     

    Colgate

    4.1

    11

    35

    22

    37

      +9

    38

    20

    Colby

    4.1

    15

    59

    17

    35

      +7

    22

     

    Hamilton

    3.9

    19

    17

    31

    31

      +7

    10

    22

    Bates

    4.1

    20

    76

    19

    27

      0

    12

     

    Oberlin

    4.3

    42

    30

    18

    52

      -3

    52

    24

    Mount Holyoke

    4.1

    33

    44

    35

    20

      +3

    18

     

    Trinity

    3.9

    24

    43

    40

      9

      +7

    13

     

     

     

  • Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is ranked in the top ten liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson is currently engaged in "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.

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