UCSD 35th in USN&WR College Rankings

U.S. News & World Report is out today (Aug. 17) with its annual list of the best colleges and universities, based on a number of academic criteria. The University of California San Diego comes in 35th. Last year, it had enrollment of 27,634 and a student acceptance rate of 38%. The University of San Diego came in 94th with 7,868 students last year and an acceptance rate of 49%. San Diego State University came in 183rd with 33,790 students and a 36% acceptance rate. The top three universities, in order, were Harvard, Princeton, and Yale.

More like this:


My education keeps improving on paper!

These rankings are fun, but are always suspect.

For instance, they changed the formula this year to increase the rating based on a high graduation rate. Caltech slid from a tie for 4th to a tie for 7th because they are extremely rigorous and have a relatively high dropout rate. They also don't appear as selective on paper as schools like Harvard, because Harvard accepts a lower percentage of applicants. That is misleading, though, because applicants to Caltech tend to more focused and many fewer unqualified students attempt an application to Caltech than to Harvard. The acceptance rate at Caltech is 15% while the acceptance rate at Harvard is 7%, yet Caltech has significantly higher SAT scores than Harvard. (I'm biased on the topic since my dad is a Caltech grad).

It reminds me of the ranking of the Preuss High School. They achieved a top ten national ranking, but it was completely artificial. The ranking was relative to other public high schools. Major points were given for minority achievement, taking AP tests and going on to college. Well, Preuss is a magnate school that pre-screens for the best minority students with college potential from a huge school district and requires them to take as many AP tests as possible. Comparing that to a typical neighborhood high school is completely apples to oranges, a meaningless comparison.

Response to post #1: Yes, the criteria dictate the scores to a very large extent. I wouldn't be surprised if they fiddle with the criteria so they can have different winners each year. That's a way to jack up readership. If the lists were the same every year, people would stop reading them. Best, Don Bauder

Not only that, Don, but it seems that "Hahvahd", Yale and Princeton are always at the top of the rankings. While it is relatively easy for the top-rated schools to stay on top, since the applications chase the top ratings, there should be some room for challengers to climb higher. I don't know much about the criteria for the ratings, but it is very hard to get objective measures that are immune to manipulation, such as graduation rates. And if you know the rules, it is a rather simple thing to go to work on the stats used in the ratings, everything else be damned.

To me, it seems darned-near impossible to measure the true quality of the education provided by universities. Fifteen or twenty years ago, Stanford found itself severely criticized for the poor effort it was putting into the undergraduate program, and finally conceded that it should and would do better. The University of California campuses teach too many of the undergraduate courses with graduate students, post-docs whose interests are in research and publishing, and other visiting faculty (translate foreign), rather than with the tenured or tenure-track faculty. And the more popular the UC campus, the more likely that will be.

These U S News ratings should be taken with a large dose of skepticism. If you saw some of their high school ratings over the years, you would know why I say that. They had some utterly absurd ratings for those, and since I know that to be the case, assume that they blow it on universities just as much.

Response to post #3: Yes, these ratings should be taken with a dose of skepticism. I notice how some universities have fallen significantly -- deserved or undeserved. When I was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, I worked for the news service and carefully watched college rankings. Then (late 1950s), both Wisconsin and Michigan were regularly in the top ten. Now, they are far down the list -- perhaps a reflection of the weak economies of the Midwest, and the difficulties getting state money. Also, I have noticed that the U Cal campuses have slipped-- I was surprised to see how low U Cal Berkeley has dropped. Again, that may be a reflection of continuous cost cutting in the bankrupt state. Best, Don Bauder

These rankings do indeed place the UC, notably Berkeley, far down the list as compared to where they used to be. Heck, Emory in Atlanta is ranked higher than UCB.

Could it be possible that the academic campaigners within UC made sure the UC rankings would fall in order to put pressure on the bankrupt state? That's contra-intuitive, but it is the sort of thing that might happen.

My personal opinion of those rankings is that they are bunk. Do a lot of press relations work and you'll see your standing improve. Do more of it and it will improve even more.

Don and visduh,

Some of the same factors that dropped Cal Tech and MIT would also have dropped the UCs. UCs can't be quite as selective in admissions, but they compensate by washing out those who can't hack it the first year. That hurts the selectivity and the graduation rate, especially relative to typical private schools, with their grade inflation and desire to keep people paying once they are accepted.

Quickly eyeballing the list, it looks like Cal is still the top public university, followed by UCLA, Michigan, UNC, William and Mary, and then UCSD at number 6.

Also, USC passed UCLA and sits right behind Berkeley, which begs the question whether all public universities are sinking, whether private universities are rising, or whether the ratings are becoming more skewed in favor of private universities (my vote).

Response to post #5: Gee, I didn't see Ashford. For that matter, the Ashford football team isn't in the top 25 for this upcoming season. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #6: I think we're all agreed that these ratings, if not bunk, are at least extremely questionable. The magazine I formerly worked for, Business Week, used to have rankings (that was after my time.) I think it only ranked business schools, but my memory is hazy. The magazine is now owned by Bloomberg and I don't know that it is still doing those ratings. I think BW did a fairly creditable job, but these ratings are very shaky. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #7: Just eyeballing those ratings, I had the same impression: public universities have been downgraded and private ones have been bumped up. Maybe, however, that makes sense, because of all the cutbacks at public universities. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #8: "Gee, I didn't see Ashford. For that matter, the Ashford football team isn't in the top 25 for this upcoming season. Best, Don Bauder"

If you do a Google search, you will find Ashford on quite a few college top 10 lists. The key is that they are "on" them, not "in" them. They advertise everywhere, and often appear in the margins on those lists.

As for football, a careful eye will note that only 2 of the top 10 even play division I football, and those 2 were ranked 21st and 78th at the end of last season. There is largely in inverse proportion between good football and academics. In fact the highest academic rank in the football top 20 was Texas at #45

Here is the top 10 football powers at the end of last season, along with their US News rank: Alabama (79) Texas (45) Cincinnati (156) TCU (99) Florida (53) Boise St. (not listed) Oregon (111) Ohio State(56) Iowa (72) Virginia Tech (69) LSU (124) Penn State (47) BYU (75) Miami (47) West Virginia (176) Pittsburgh (64) Oregon State(139) Oklahoma State (132) Arizona (120)

Response to post #11: This would suggest that money that should be going into academics is being funneled into football. It's going on lots of places, including SDSU. It stinks. Best, Don Bauder

By what standards should universities be ranked?

Response to #13:

That all depends on what you are looking for. Here is another annual ranking of colleges:


Response to post #13: It depends what you are looking for. From time to time, there are rankings of party schools. I'm sure my alma mater, Wisconsin, ranked high, along with Colorado, Texas and some others. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #14: It also depends on what your parents can afford to pay. Best, Don Bauder

Don, you seem to have your pulse on the party school scene!

Just before your response I posted a link with this years top party schools according to Playboy.

1 Texas

3 Wisconsin

Response to post #17: No, I haven't heard about such rankings for years. I suppose it goes to show that once a party school, always a party school. Who is in second place? Don Bauder

2. West Virginia

Interestingly, the Huffington Post published this list, stating: "Each year, Playboy Magazine ranks its top ten party schools", but according to snopes.com Playboy has only compiled such a list 3 times (dating through 2008, they appear to have done it again in 2010), in 1987, 2002 and 2006.

Notably, in 1968 Playboy listed the University of Wisconsin, Madison as the most permissive campus and labeled it "the party school" primarily because it served beer in the student union (Don???).

In 1987: Chico St.(#1) and SDSU(#3). Wisconsin was not even listed, which deeply offended many a cheesehead.

In 2002: ASU(#1), Chico St.(#2), Colorado(#6), Wisconsin(#7), SDSU(#10)

2006: Wisconsin-Madison(#1)


I found a secondary list of party schools ranked by earning potential, which had Colorado #3, after Union College of New York(#1) and UC Santa Barbara(#2).

Response to post #19: Most interesting. I left UW in 1960 with two degrees. Ever since, when I mention my alma mater, the subject of serving beer in the student union is likely to come up. But when I was there, it wasn't such a big deal, because that beer was 3.2. You could walk three or four blocks and get much stronger beer at a saloon on State Street. While some drank the Union beer, the serious students drank coffee, and the serious drinkers walked a couple of blocks to get the stronger stuff. Incidentally: Chico State? Really? Best, Don Bauder

If you do a Google search, you will find Ashford on quite a few college top 10 lists. The key is that they are "on" them, not "in" them. They advertise everywhere, and often appear in the margins on those lists.

OMG was that hilarious!!!!!

In 1987: Chico St.(#1) and SDSU(#3). Wisconsin was not even listed, which deeply offended many a cheesehead.

In 2002: ASU(#1), Chico St.(#2), Colorado(#6), Wisconsin(#7), SDSU(#10)

Chico State was infamous for their spring break, known as "Pioneer Days" and the local police, as I understand it, finally had enough of it and put the hammer down on the unruly, unlawful behaviour-much the way Palm Springs afther their riots in 1986 during their spring break wild days........

There is nothing to do in Chico but float down the river on a raft while towing a keg. I guess that counts for something.

Another school that showed up near the top of each of the last two Playboy polls was one I had never heard of: Rollins College.

I found this description for Rollins College in the online Urban Dictionary:

Rollins College: "A college, a.k.a country club, where the weather is hot and the students are hotter. A typical day for a Rollins student includes: waking up late, throwing on some designer clothes, maybe going to class, laying out by the pool, watching wakeboarders on the lake, eating on park ave., and eventually going down town or to a winter park hot spot and popping bottles like it's their job. Not that many students actually have jobs, thanks daddy."

Response to post #21: That does make a difference. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #22: Chico State's rowdiness escaped me completely. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #23: If Rollins College is in Florida, I believe my father may have gone there for a semester in the 1920s. I remember it being discussed, but not as a party school. The family spent a year down there. Actually, my father graduated from Wisconsin and got his master's at Texas A&M. Best, Don Bauder

Response to #26: "If Rollins College is in Florida, I believe my father may have gone there for a semester in the 1920s"


Yep, Rollins College is near Orlando, in Winter Park.

I don't know, Don, first we find out that you went to the original playboy party school, and now we find out that your dad went to Rollins which is #7 on the 2010 Playboy list.

Response to post #27: Whoopee! I'd like to know of a school with a self-supporting athletic department. What is it? And are you sure there isn't some accounting hanky-panky that makes it appear self-supporting? Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #28: If I respond to you, I am going to get in trouble. But it does appear to be a noteworthy activity. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #29: My father, who has been dead 32 years, was a garrulous, gregarious guy who was quite a partier in his day. Loved a quaff. If indeed he went to Rollins, however briefly, the fact that he went to both Wisconsin and Rollins would put him up there with the party crowd. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #33: I am scared to death of motorcycles. I have never ridden on one and never will. When I was young, I wouldn't even ride on a motorbike. Best, Don Bauder

Palm Springs spring break was so huge back in the 80's, it is hard to imagine it today. But that is all long gone-and has been replaced by pretty much alargely gay population, who started coming out from the Laguna Beach and other OC areas when housing got too expensive there in OC.

Response to posts #s 35&36: I am learning more than I've ever known about Palm Springs. I remember giving a speech there in the summer. It was hot. Best, Don Bauder

I have stayed in Palm Springs, and lived in Yuma, and dry heat makes it a little more tolerable, but when you're at 110, which both get to on a regular basis in summer-you need to stay in the entire time during the day.

Response to post #38: The electric chair is dry heat, too. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #39: What were Palm Springs and Yuma like before air conditioning? I know Phoenix was a little burg until a.c. came along, although it was capital of Arizona. Best, Don Bauder

Reply #41 RE: "What were Palm Springs and Yuma like before air conditioning?"

I think Robin Williams said it best in the movie, "Good Morning Vietnam",


Heat shimmering off the pavement or dirt kept most folks inside during mid day especially during the Summer which gave them the look of a "Ghost" Town.

Inside it was cooler but without internet, only some TV and static filled AM radio one had lots of time ponder the newspaper, read a book or play a board game or cards while savoring a glass of iced tea or if you were lucky a sweating can of soda pop.

What was it like before electricity; that would have been really tough, imagine being inside Yuma Territorial Prison in the Summer...

Response to post #42: You don't think any ruffians came through Yuma during territorial times, do you? I'll bet it was a staid old town. Best, Don bauder

The old Yuma prison is pretty intense to visit, would never have wanted to get laid up there.

As for AC, back when Ben Seigle developed the Flamigo Hotel in Vegas, the only reason it worked was because of AC, which as I recall was brand new, before that it was just fans.

I realy liked Yuma, it grows on you. Much the way Michigan grew on me when I was there for grad school. Hated both in the begining, but after living there for a time I liked them both...........Of course Michigan is a much more dramatic change from San Diego than Yuma is, and having never lived outside CA before, it was a welcome change to live in the mid west......

Reply #45 Every hear the expression, "Hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk"?

Theres HOT and then there's, "DAMMMMN HOT"

Response to post #44: Because of the snowbirds, Yuma is actually booming -- in the wintertime. All those tiny homes are being built, golf courses are springing up. I did a column on this several years ago. No doubt it has slowed down in the recession. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #45: My late father-in-law played golf in Phoenix into his 80s. Best, Don Bauder

Response to post #46: Thank goodness for that heat in Arizona. If Zonies didn't own some of the downtown condos, they would be almost empty. Economically, however, the Zonies don't help San Diego that much, because they are only in town for a month or so. Best, Don Bauder

Log in to comment

Skip Ad

SD Reader Newsletters

Join our newsletter list and enter to win a $25 gift card to The Broken Yolk Cafe!

Each subscription means another chance to win!