Columbia University Admits Giving Incorrect Data to U.S. News Rankings, Drops to 18th Place

United States North America Higher Education News by Erudera News Sep 12, 2022

Columbia University cover.jpeg

Columbia University has lost its No. 2 spot and dropped to No. 18 in the prestigious U.S. News & World Report college rankings after admitting it had previously reported incorrect data.

The university stated it had relied on “outdated and incorrect methodologies,” Erudera.com reports.

The Ivy League school in New York City ranked second best in the 2021 U.S. News & World Report annual ranking, raising doubts among one of its own professors about the accuracy of the figures.

Columbia’s rise from 18th place, on its debut in 1988, to 2nd place in 2021 was noticed in February by Columbia Mathematics Professor Michael Thaddeus, who said that other universities had also improved in the rankings, but none of them had reached the exceptional results of Columbia University.

“A few other top-tier universities have also improved their standings, but none has matched Columbia’s extraordinary rise. It is natural to wonder what the reason might be. Why have Columbia’s fortunes improved so dramatically?” Thaddeus said in a statement published on Columbia University’s Department of Mathematics website.

In a statement on Friday, Columbia Provost Mary Boyce said that details included in the two Common Data Sets - for the Columbia College / Columbia Engineering and for Columbia General Studies reflect the university’s effort to review the data collection process, following the concerns raised by the math professor on the accuracy of data submitted to U.S. News.

The analysis found that previous data for class size were incorrect in some cases. Boyce also said that the findings revealed that 95.3 percent of Columbia’s full-time faculty have terminal degrees.

“Anything less than complete accuracy in the data that we report—regardless of the size or the reason—is inconsistent with the standards of excellence to which Columbia holds itself. We deeply regret the deficiencies in our prior reporting and are committed to doing better,” Provost Mary C. Boyce said in the statement.

In February, Thaddeus said that several of the key figures that support the high ranking of the university are “highly misleading” and not correct.

The math professor examined data on the size of undergraduate classes, the percentage of faculty with terminal degrees, the percentage of faculty working full-time at the university, and the student-faculty ratio that were reported to the U.S. News. Thaddeus compared these data with “figures calculated by other means,” using the information published by the university somewhere else.

”In each case, we find discrepancies, sometimes quite large, and always in Columbia’s favor, between the two sets of figures,” professor said.

In June, the university said it would not submit data to the U.S. News and World Report for this year’s undergraduate college rankings.

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