Case Western Reserve climbed to 40th in this year’s U.S. News & World Report undergraduate rankings of national universities—regaining two of the five positions lost last year, when the publication significantly changed its methodology.

The move came thanks to modest improvements in the university’s graduation rate, selectivity, faculty resources and the academic qualifications of the entering class.

“We are pleased to see progress in this year’s U.S. News & World Report rankings,” President Barbara R. Snyder said, “but also recognize that we have more to do to enhance the overall experiences of our undergraduates. Last year’s launch of the Student Success Initiative represented a major step forward in that effort, and I hope to see still more advances this academic year.”

The Student Success Initiative grew out of recommendations from the Provost’s Commission on Undergraduate Education. It combines functions previously spread across multiple offices and provides undergraduates with navigators charged to assist students in identifying and securing staff assistance they may need; faculty advisors still provide mentoring and guidance regarding academic matters.

In 2018, U.S. News added two new categories to its rankings—the six-year graduation rate of Pell Grant recipients (typically students from lower-income households), and the difference between that rate and the overall six-year graduation rate. At the same time, the magazine reduced the weight given to several admissions-related criteria. The university fell from 37th to 42nd, marking the first time in eight years that its ranking fell below 40.

For this year’s ranking, the university’s overall graduation rate (based on a four-year average of students who entered in the fall of 2009 through the fall of 2012) was 85 percent—two points higher than last year, but six points below what the magazine calculates the rate should be based on the strength of the entering classes. The graduation rate for students receiving Pell Grants was 82 percent.

Case Western Reserve’s undergraduate and business programs both saw one-tenth of a point improvements in their average assessments by deans and senior faculty in the respective programs—the sole measure U.S. News uses to rank them. But while the Case School of Engineering’s move up to 3.4 (on a 1—5 scale) saw it climb to 39th from last year’s 43rd, the Weatherhead School of Management’s climb to 3.6 led to a three-position drop, to 38th.