Loyola’s overall ranking on U.S News and World Report’s “Best Colleges” list dropped from 104th last year to 112th this year however retained high rankings in categories like service-learning.
U.S. News and World Report ranks colleges after evaluating them in different areas and assigning weights to each category, according to David Slavsky, director of Loyola’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness. The office collects and analyzes university data and released a report analyzing the latest ranking results.
Slavsky said the main reason Loyola’s ranking dropped the past two years is due to the graduation rate returning back to average after it spiked in 2018 at 77 percent and brought the university’s rating to 89 overall. In both 2019 and 2020, the graduation rate was 74 percent, according to the university’s report.
The six-year graduation rate at a college comprises 22 percent of the overall score, so it impacts the ranking a lot when it fluctuates, Slavsky said.
Slavsky said he doesn’t worry when Loyola drops a few spots in the overall ranking, but rather looks at the individual categories as one of the many ways to assess how Loyola is doing in different aspects.
“If we hold too closely [to the rankings] ‘oh, no, we dropped five places,’ ‘oh, we went up 20 places,’ if you use that to decide how you’re going to adjust your university or how you’re going to run your university, you’re making their values, your values,” Slavsky said.
Slavsky said what he’s found over the 39 years he’s worked at Loyola is the university excels in the categories associated with its mission. For example, Loyola ranked 21 out of the 389 schools in service-learning and only 27 schools even received the 15 expert recommendations it takes to be on the list, Slavsky said.
“The U.S. News is confirming, yet again, that Loyola does very well at the things that are closest to our mission, that are most central to our mission,” Slavsky said.
Loyola was also on the list of schools that provide the best value to students, the list for best undergraduate teaching and the list of top schools for veterans. The Quinlan School of Business also scored a high ranking, placing 81 out of 511 undergraduate business schools, Loyola’s analysis showed.
Another area Loyola saw an increase in its score was in the “Peer Assessment/Expert Opinion” category. In this category, the U.S. College News Report surveys university presidents, chief officers and deans of admissions who rank universities on a scale of one to five, Slavsky said.
Loyola was rated 3.3, up from 3.2 last year. This score has increased by 10 percent in the past two years even though Slavsky said it’s one of the hardest categories to improve and accounts for 20 percent of the overall ranking. Loyola ranked higher in this category than 24 of the universities higher than Loyola on the overall ranking list, beating other Jesuit schools such as Marquette University, Santa Clara University and Loyola Marymount University, the analysis showed.
“As I said, I look at this data and mostly I shrug my shoulders, so I’m not going to start doing backflips … because we’re doing well in this metric,” Slavsky said. “But, I think it says that what we’re doing is getting known out around the country and certainly there’s no evidence in that specific metric that people think we’re doing something wrong.”
Loyola’s score changed very little in most areas analyzed during the ranking process, which means most of the changes are due to fluctuations in the statistics, Slavsky said. However, an area where Loyola’s ranking saw a significant drop was in its “Social Mobility Score” falling from 84th on the list to 154th, the analysis showed.
This score is calculated by comparing the six-year graduation rates of students who received Pell Grants — a federal grant for students who display “exceptional financial need” — to students who didn’t. This is designed to measure how well a university is supporting students with fewer resources, Slavsky said.
Despite the change in ranking, Loyola students who receive pell grants’ six-year graduation rate actually increased from 66 percent to 67 percent this year and students who didn’t receive the grant’s graduation rate stayed the same.
Slavsky said he didn’t understand the results when he first saw them and his office actually wrote a letter to the U.S. News and World Report to clarify if the numbers were correct. He said the organization told him there weren’t any errors in the data but wouldn’t give further background on how they computed the ranking.
The only reason Slavksy said he could think of for why Loyola dropped so much in ranking would be that other schools’ graduation rates may have improved, but he said he doesn’t have the data to prove that.