The U has moved up the ladder of university rankings, now at 115 in the nation, according to the latest U.S. News & World Report for America’s Best Colleges.
Mateo Remsburg, associate director of admissions, said the 14-spot jump is one of the biggest the U has seen. While he believes the school’s rank should not determine everything for students, Remsburg said it does help boost the perceived value of their degrees.
Students like Isabelle Harward, a senior in biology, think the name of the school on your degree can make a difference.
“That’s why freshmen apply to a school — so they have a more viable degree from a better institution,” Harward said. “They want a school with a good reputation.”
That reputation is attracting better students as well, Remsburg said. Overall, average ACT scores and high school GPAs of incoming freshmen are higher. One of the biggest improvements in this years’ ranking was retention and graduation rates. Retention — or the percent of freshmen students who return sophomore year — is at 88.4 percent. The U’s current goal is to get that number to 90.
Remsburg attributes the boost to U President David Pershing’s focus on learning community programs like LEAP, Block U and business scholars.
“The research nationally, as well as what we see on our campus, is that when students are engaged in classes and programs with students with similar interests, they build stronger support networks and they tend to be more successful,” Remsburg said.
Individual departments within the U also received a higher ranking, such as the undergraduate engineering program (ranked 56th) and the business program (ranked 50th).
Most students admit to not paying much attention to those ratings, but John Robe, a junior in computer engineering, said it can be beneficial when choosing a university.
“When I was applying to schools I looked at the rankings. That was part of my decision,” he said.
Robe focused on the engineering program and compared it to other schools. When he saw the U stood beside well-known universities, it justified his decision to stay in-state for school.
Ruth Watkins, senior vice president for academic affairs, is glad the U is being recognized, but she is also wary of the new numbers.
“It’s not that the rankings are perfect or are always right,” Watkins said. “The trick is not to let them drive our behavior, but to pay attention to the parts of the ranking that are important to us.”
Those parts are primarily retention and graduation rates, which Watkins contributes to an increased investment in scholarships, financial aid, academic advising and online education. If students receive scholarships, they can work less and focus more on school. Online classes also allow busy students to manage work, family and school.
Students can learn more about the breakdown of the ranking from colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/university-of-utah-3675.