The 2021 U.S. News and World Report rankings were released today, and SIU Carbondale is ranked 258 among all national universities. Among public universities in the same category, we are ranked at 126.
Of course, a number doesn’t tell the story. A ranking is simply a snapshot of a university at a point in time based on a formula developed, in this case, by U.S. News and World Report. Rankings can go up and down based on data plugged into the formula each year.
If you look beyond the number, however, rankings can be insightful. We are proud to be ranked in the national university category, described by U.S. News as including institutions that “offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and doctoral programs, and emphasize faculty research or award professional practice doctorates.”
Ranking as a national university signals our broad scope and research mission. It also says something about the company we keep. Topping this year’s national university rankings are Princeton, Harvard, Columbia and MIT. We join other universities in our “high research” Carnegie classification like the University of California-San Diego, William and Mary, and Loyola University Chicago.
We join the University of Louisville, Oklahoma State and West Virginia University, all institutions in our peer comparison group assigned by the U.S. Department of Education. We also join three other Illinois public universities among the institutions assigned an individual rank in the National Universities category: University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, University of Illinois Chicago and Illinois State University.
That’s pretty good company.
U.S. News bases its ranking on an overall score determined by a complicated formula that looks at outcomes, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, class size, financial resources, peer assessment and more. This year, our score is 43, the highest since at least 2014 and a significant jump from the previous score of 30. (While we were briefly “unranked” in last year’s rankings due to an error in the submission of data, we can still make comparisons to our original ranking.)
Contributing to this improvement is continuing growth in our freshman retention rate, an increase in the number of first-year students in the top 10 percent of their graduating classes, and smaller class sizes and faculty-to-student ratios. We also rank a very credible 104th in terms of faculty resources.
In addition, we have climbed more than 25 spots to rank 243 in “social mobility,” which measures how well schools graduated students who received federal Pell grants. This typically includes households with family incomes less than $50,000 annually, although most Pell Grant money goes to students with a family income below $20,000, according to U.S. News.
Since the 2021 ranking is based on fall 2019 data and doesn’t reflect the significant gains we made in retention this fall, and since greater retention signals greater graduation rates, we are on a good path to improve our scores going forward.
Business, computer science, engineering
U.S. News also released rankings of selected programs that bring additional good news. Again, it’s less about the number than about the company we keep. For the first time, we have been ranked among undergraduate computer science programs (at 210). We are 180 in undergraduate business programs overall and 181 in undergraduate engineering programs among doctoral institutions.
In the end, rankings have a role to play helping us understand and compare colleges and universities. But they don’t tell you whether an institution has a specific program, the faculty and staff are welcoming, student life is vibrant or the campus is beautiful. That knowledge can come only through personal engagement. We strongly encourage prospective students and families to reach out and get to know us. Ask questions. Visit us virtually or in person.
Only then will you know whether to rank us on the one list that matters most: colleges to apply to (and right now, students can apply to SIU for free!). We want to be at the top of that list.