USC dropped four spots in U.S. News and World Report’s 2024 “Best Colleges Rankings,” slotting in Monday as the publication’s 28th “Best National University” following a significant refinement to the ranking formula.
The rankings, which were updated on the education section of the U.S. News and World Report’s website, listed USC as tied with U.C. Davis, U.C. San Diego, and the University of Florida with a score of 83 out of a possible 100. Fellow California universities Stanford, CalTech, U.C. Berkeley, and UCLA all ranked inside the top 15.
“Many national and international magazines publish college rankings, which are one of many considerations some people take into account when choosing a university,” USC wrote in a statement to Annenberg Media. “The way these rankings are calculated change frequently. As a result, we don’t comment on them.”
While U.S. News and World Report has not published specific reasoning for why USC fell in its rankings, it did explain that changes to its ranking process may lead to a school’s rise or fall from year to year.
In an article published Sunday night highlighting how the rankings were calculated, U.S. News and World Report writers Robert Morse and Eric Brooks wrote, “As in past years, changes in methodology, together with changes in individual schools’ data, can result in significant changes to schools’ rankings.”
“U.S. News & World Report made refinements to this year’s rankings formula by dropping five longstanding factors, modifying the weights of several other factors, and introducing a few new ones,” Morse and Brooks continued.
According to Morse and Brooks, the biggest change in the ranking formula centered around the ability of students from all backgrounds to succeed at each school.
“We increased the emphasis on how often schools’ students from all socioeconomic backgrounds earned degrees and took advantage of information on graduate outcomes that was not available until recently,” said the two writers.
The five factors dropped by the publication’s ranking system were class size, alumni giving average, graduate debt proportion borrowing, high school class standing, and the number of faculty holding terminal degrees, or the highest possible accreditation in their field. Those factors had previously accounted for 18% of the 2023 rankings.
Current USC students shared their conflicting views on the ranking and current support provided by the university in interviews with Annenberg Media.
“It’s surprising, to say the least,” said Matheo Mourot, a student from the School of Cinematic Arts. “As an SCA student, our film school is technically the best film school in the world.”
“I definitely feel like I am supported as a student and as an individual,” Mourot continued.
“It sounds like the rankings are adjusting to think more about how the school supports their students and makes it easy to attend, which I definitely think [USC] struggles with at times,” said Jane Rutherford, a junior majoring in theater.
One student was conflicted when asked about USC potentially being ranked lower than other universities because of the lack of support for students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.
“I hope if [USC] is being seen in that way or categorized in that way it does get better because I know that they are doing a lot of initiatives and pushes,” said Miko Mariscal, a junior majoring in sociology. “But sometimes, you know, that’s just talk.”
The “Best Colleges Rankings” are one of many college rankings systems published by different organizations every year.
Forbes published its latest “America’s Top Colleges List” in August, with USC ranked 14th, U.C. San Diego ranked 21st, the University of Florida ranked 27th and U.C. Davis ranked 37th.
The Wall Street Journal also released its rankings of the “Best Colleges in the U.S. in 2024″ in September, with USC ranked as the 22nd best university in America, registering an overall score of 83.4 out of a possible 100 points.
The Wall Street Journal’s ranking process differs slightly from U.S. News and World Report’s current system. Among other factors, the Journal focuses on graduation rates, career preparation, environment and diversity. They also take into account the average net cost to attend each university compared to the value added to each graduate’s salary.
The universities that USC shared its spot with in the U.S. News rankings had widely differing placements in the Wall Street Journal’s. The University of Florida ranked 15th in the Journal, but U.C. Davis and U.C. San Diego ranked 95th and 103rd, respectively.