Case Western Reserve rebounded from last year’s one-position dip and is back at 37th in this year’s edition of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges” rankings. Yet again, the university benefited from gains in admissions and alumni giving, while graduation and retention rates lagged behind the school’s performance in several other categories.
“We are pleased to have moved up one spot,” President Barbara R. Snyder said, “yet the data show that we have much more to do in specific categories. Our recent progress as a university is greater than is reflected in our overall position, and we will continue to work to ensure greater alignment between our actual excellence and our ranking.”
Part of the challenge in improving the university’s standing is that the results of some categories lag behind concrete gains. For example, the magazine’s six-year graduation rate reflects the performance of students who entered the university in 2008, when more than 70 percent of applicants won admission and students’ academic qualifications were significantly lower. Meanwhile, changes in reputational scores—specifically, the ratings that university presidents, provosts, and admissions officials give schools during annual spring balloting—first await concrete gains, and then broad recognition and awareness of those improvements. Since 2010, the six-year graduation rate has moved only 3 percentage points, while the peer assessment has moved a single tenth of a point (on a five-point scale).
Nevertheless, the data behind the ratings did provide several reasons for hope. Admissions selectivity improved from 42 percent to 38 percent, and the proportion of first-year students in the top 10 percent of their graduating high school class moved from 67 percent to 68 percent. In addition, alumni giving grew from 20 percent to 21 percent, moving the university’s ranking in that category from 42nd to 35th among national universities. While the graduation rate remains lower than the magazine projects given the academic qualifications of entering students, this year’s number was only four percentage points behind—half the previous year’s number. The university’s student retention task force, a large and broad committee drawn from across the campus, is expected to issue its recommendations to improve outcomes later this fall.
With regard to individual disciplines for undergraduates, the Case School of Engineering held its position at 41st in the country, while the Weatherhead School of Management fell from 34th to 39th.