As some top colleges decline to participate in the U.S. News & World Report higher education rankings, Maryland’s educators and students have mixed views on how much the rankings still matter.
U.S. News shared the majority of its 2023 rankings last month, and medical and law school lists were published May 11. The Johns Hopkins University was named the second-best medical school for research — Harvard’s is the first.
But the Hopkins School of Medicine announced in late January that it would no longer participate in U.S. News’ rankings because “the ranking system does not provide a fair, comprehensive overview of each medical school but instead employs metrics that are clearly not useful to students,” a Johns Hopkins Medicine spokesperson said in a statement.
Published since 1983, the annual rankings consider about 1,500 schools and take into account graduation rates, faculty resources, financial resources per student and more. But in November, Yale Law School began a trend by boycotting the process; Harvard, Georgetown, the University of Pennsylvania and other law and medical schools soon followed out of displeasure with U.S. News’ methods.
When it announced the boycott, Yale Law School said the rankings “disincentivize programs that support public interest careers, champion need-based aid, and welcome working-class students into the profession.”
In January, Hopkins said in a statement: “The mission of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is to enroll diverse, academically outstanding students with a demonstrated interest in becoming healers and leaders in medicine and biomedical science. This goal reflects our commitment to the public trust, and it is not adequately assessed by the current measures used to rank medical schools.”
U.S. News said it made methodology changes, partially based on schools’ feedback, such as weighing reputation and selectivity less heavily.
These college rankings still “reflect and affect” people’s perceptions of higher education programs, said Keith J. Bowman, dean of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s College of Engineering and Information Technology.
“They can be very impactful for prospective students and university partners, but they offer readers just one piece of the puzzle,” Bowman said. “What rankings say depends on how they are designed, who gets to provide input and how different factors are weighed, and most rankings aren’t able to convey the full picture of what universities can offer to prospective students. Still, they can provide a helpful entry point for people to learn about high-quality programs that universities like UMBC offer.”
UMBC has eight graduate programs, such as environmental and chemical engineering, that rank in the top 100 for their respective fields.
Sandrea Nyivih, a UMBC junior, said the rankings are “kind of unnecessary. I’ve never paid attention to them.”
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Maeve Howett, associate dean for baccalaureate education at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, said officials there are not as focused on “massaging the rankings” since it’s a public school. The school’s master of science in nursing program is ranked seventh for top public schools of nursing.
“We don’t deliberately try to rise in the rankings. We have our heads down, and we’re doing the work; I think we’re always going to rise to the top because of that,” Howett said. “It’s sort of a humility that we have about our work. As a public-serving institution, we care about [the rankings] when it reflects the work we’re doing.”
Hopkins’ graduate nursing program ranks second overall in U.S. News’ rankings. Although Hopkins holds a top medical research spot, the institution is tied for 92nd for best medical school for primary care. The University of Maryland, on the other hand, is tied for 22nd.
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Hopkins already had provided data for this year’s rankings before its January announcement. For medical schools that did not participate, U.S. News used last year’s information or did not rank those institutions. U.S. News said it also factored in data from the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This year’s law school rankings were based on American Bar Association data, according to U.S. News. Maryland’s highest-ranked law program is the University of Maryland Carey School of Law, which tied for 51st in the country.
Nick Dimitriades, a rising senior at Towson High School, said the U.S. News rankings still play a huge factor in the college search and are a “widespread obsession” at his school. He said whenever he talks about college with his peers, there’s pressure to attend a high-ranking institution.
In a text to The Baltimore Sun, he wrote: “Factors like personal interests, location, academic opportunities and student life should carry far more weight in a student’s college search than any kind of ranking. ... Rankings like those of US News have definitely made it a less student-centered process.”