UC Berkeley was ranked the No. 4 public university in the United States — below UCLA, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill — in the Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education’s joint college ranking released Tuesday.
UC Berkeley was ranked No. 40 overall, tying with Boston University and dropping five spots since the 2017 Wall Street Journal ranking. UCLA was ranked at No. 25, UMich at No. 27 and UNC Chapel Hill at No. 33 in the new 2018 ranking.
The ranking combines 15 different performance indicators to create an overall score, according to the methodology outline. UC Berkeley’s most significant decline is reflected in the “outcomes” category, which measures graduation rates, academic reputation and value added to graduate salaries and loan defaults. The outcomes category is the most heavily weighted category, and UC Berkeley’s outcomes score dropped from 36.3/40 in 2017 to 34.6/40 in 2018.
According to campus spokesperson Michael Dirda, the Wall Street Journal ranking does not set public universities up to score highly because of how heavily it weighs the amount of resources available per student. Dirda said institutions with large student bodies, such as UC Berkeley, tend to underperform in this category.
“We try not to get too worked up or too excited any time a new set of rankings comes out,” Dirda said. “We don’t reprioritize our core goals just to score on these kinds of lists.”
Dirda added that the UC Berkeley Office of Planning and Analysis had expressed concern that it was not involved in the Wall Street Journal’s ranking process. According to Dirda, the office found the ranking to be “fairly skewed” because it might not have represented student perspectives.
Dirda said he felt that prospective campus students will look beyond rankings and weigh other factors when deciding on which college to attend.
Campus freshman Erica Shin said she felt UC Berkeley could have been ranked higher if the campus funds used to provide security for speakers such as Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopolous were instead allocated toward funding research or hiring professors.
“(My roommate and I) were really mad about the ranking,” Shin said. “We thought that Berkeley should be ranked so much higher on the list. … We were the No. 1 public university for so long.”
Other students, however, said they thought the ranking was insignificant. Campus junior Ezra Alanis called rankings “arbitrary” and said he felt they are a publicity tactic used by magazines.
Dirda emphasized that despite the ranking drop, the list still shows that UC Berkeley is among the best public institutions in the country.
“We’re happy to see UCLA performing well alongside us,” Dirda said. “I don’t want to make this all doom and gloom.”