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Saturday, August 20, 2005
UH-Manoa fares poorly
For the eighth straight year, the University of Hawaii at Manoa has ranked in the bottom half among America's best colleges.
And for a third year, Harvard and Princeton share the top spot in the U.S. News & World Report listing, which is released to coincide with the new academic year.
In fact, the full rankings look much like last year, with not one school in the top 20 moving more than two spots in either direction. Rounding out the top five are Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and Duke and Stanford in a tie. The top four liberal arts colleges also are unchanged, with Williams again No. 1.
The University of California at Berkeley, tied for No. 20, is the top-ranked public university in the latest guide to "America's Best Colleges," set to hit newsstands Monday.
The ranking are based on a number of indicators, including retention rates, class sizes and student-faculty ratio.
UH-Manoa is on an unranked list in the third of four tiers, putting it among schools that fell somewhere between No. 125 and 180 of 248 institutions.
The state's flagship university campus has been in the third tier since 1999.
The University of Hawaii at Hilo fell in the fourth tier on the magazine's liberal arts colleges list, while Hawaii Pacific University was named 57th on a ranking of master's degree programs at Western universities.
Meanwhile, UH-Manoa ranked second among 25 universities whose 2004 graduating class carried the least college loan debt. About 21 percent of Manoa graduates carried an average debt of $5,379. Princeton topped the list, with graduates owing an average of $4,030.
Chaminade University of Honolulu, Brigham Young University of Hawaii and the University of Hawaii-Windward Oahu were not ranked.
After years of criticism for tinkering with its formula, the magazine has more or less settled on an equation over the last decade, and has not changed it at since dropping the criterion admissions yield -- the number of accepted students who attend a school -- three years ago. Because college profiles change only gradually, the result is that the rankings have barely budged.
"So much for the theory that every year U.S. News is determined to seek publicity by blowing up the old formula and putting in something all new," said Ben Wildavsky, the college guide's editor.
But some critics say the formula should be changed because it fails to account for many aspects of educational quality. And more administrators appear to be protesting the rankings by declining to participate in the magazine's peer review, in which they are asked to grade other colleges.
That portion of the formula accounts for 25 percent of a school's ranking, and the survey's response rate has fallen from 67 percent in 2002 to 57 percent this year.
"No one can know for sure what is going on at another institution," said Marty O'Connell, dean of admission at McDaniel College in Maryland, who refuses to grade other schools. "The colleges with the largest endowments always end up being the ones with the highest peer ratings."
Robert Morse, the magazine's director of data research, acknowledges that the response rate has slipped, but "there's still a credible number of respondents per school. We're not in any danger of having a school rated by just five people."