U.S. News and World Report produces skewed public university rankings

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An article published last week by U.S News and World Report naming the 10 most expensive public schools in the nation for out-of-state students used figures that did not match up with the most recent data, according to data provided by UC Berkeley.

The article placed seven UC campuses in its ranking, with UC Berkeley coming in 10th. UC Irvine, at third on the list, was said to be the most expensive of the UC campuses, purportedly costing $35,780 in tuition and fees for the 2011-12 academic year.

But UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said that “much of what U.S. News presented was a bit off.”

Mogulof and staff compiled a table with “fully vetted, fully up-to-date data” from UC campuses that  contradicted the article’s findings. According to the campus data, UC Davis was the most expensive to attend for out-of-state students, costing $36,738 in 2011-12 tuition and fees.

The U.S. News article said UC Berkeley cost $34,645 for out-of-state tuition and fees in 2011-12, but campus figures put the cost at $35,712 — a $1,067 difference.

In the 2011-12 academic year, UC Berkeley was cheaper in terms of tuition and fees for out-of state students than the Irvine, Davis, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Diego and Riverside campuses.

Mogulof speculated that the data from the article were inaccurate because the news agency had not gone back to pick up final 2011-12 data from each institution after July 2011 and did not consistently capture increases in tuition or in campus-based fees as a result.

Sara Clarke, education editor for U.S. News, said in an email that the figures came from schools themselves as part of an annual survey.

“From going to the various UC campus websites, none of the figures on the U.S News article look accurate,” said UC Irvine spokesperson Cathy Lawhon.

Lawhon urged prospective UC undergraduate out-of-state students to check with individual UC campuses about their fees when deciding which campuses to apply to.

When asked whether her choice of UC campus would have been affected by the price differences highlighted in the article, UC Berkeley freshman and out of state student Ali Klein said she would have chosen UC Berkeley, even if it had been the most expensive, “because of the education you get at this campus.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by UC Berkeley graduate student Sarah Marzen, an out-of-state student from Virginia.

“Now I’m here I guess I would be interested, but not really, because these figures don’t mean much — they come out all the time,” Marzen said.

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article may have implied that U.S. News and World Report used incorrect data. In fact, U.S. News used data self-reported by schools in an annual survey that has since become outdated.