UMass Amherst climbs to 26th in public college ranks

  • The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) campus Courtesy photo

Published: 9/13/2018 12:42:32 AM

AMHERST — The University of Massachusetts Amherst has reached 26th on the closely watched U.S. News & World Report list of best public colleges, with other local schools also placing high in the publication’s other national rankings.

UMass Amherst has climbed up from its place as 52nd on the list of public universities in 2010, ranking in the top 30 for the fifth consecutive year. Compared with both public and private institutions nationwide, UMass Amherst placed 70th. On the publication’s list of top liberal arts colleges, Amherst College placed second, Smith College tied for 11th and Mount Holyoke College came in tied for 30th.

The U.S. News and World Report’s rankings are highly anticipated every year, and colleges and universities often tout their rankings to prospective students. But critics say the rankings favor elite colleges and universities, and that institutions’ intense focus on the lists can lead them to favor wealthier students over those from low-income families.

UMass Amherst’s leadership has hailed the jump in rank as proof of the university’s reputation as a top institute of higher learning.

“To maintain its competitive edge in the innovation economy, both nationally and globally, Massachusetts needs a top tier public university to fill the talent pipeline and conduct the groundbreaking research that makes our state a leader in innovation,” Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in a statement. “By continually improving across all categories, including student achievement, graduation rates and faculty productivity, UMass Amherst is delivering on that promise for the Commonwealth.”

Zac Bears, executive director of the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, said he was happy that UMass was being recognized, but he was less optimistic about the rankings. He said the rankings end up creating a bad incentive structure.

“Rankings that are based on selectivity — or measures of performance that are tied to wealth and poverty — are going to create that incentive structure,” he said.

This year, the publication for the first time included “social mobility” as part of its methodology, but has left in often-criticized metrics like standardized test scores and “expert opinion.

“Is it about a higher ranking for UMass, or the mission of educating those who may not have access to a high education?” Bears asked, noting that UMass has raised tuition again for this academic year.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at
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