US News & World Report ‘unranks’ UC Berkeley in college rankings

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Update 8/8/2019: This article has been updated to include information from a community message from the chancellor’s office.

UC Berkeley has been removed from the U.S. News & World Report college rankings due to years of misreporting data on alumni donations, according to a press release from U.S. News.

The campus, along with four other schools, has been moved to an “Unranked” category, according to a press release from U.S. News. The five schools, for the time being, have all lost their spots in the publication’s rankings lists. UC Berkeley had previously held the place of No. 2 public university in the nation.

According to a community message from Chancellor Carol Christ’s office, the campus has submitted corrected data and has certified with U.S. News that it is accurate. The message said UC Berkeley is anticipated to be back in the rankings in a couple of months.

“Though part of the rankings methodology, the incorrectly reported alumni giving data is most certainly not a measure of the academic quality at UC Berkeley,” the community message stated.

UC Berkeley had been providing inaccurate data regarding alumni donation rates to U.S. News “since at least 2014,” according to the publication’s press release. According to the press release, the campus had reported that its alumni donation rate was an average of 11.6 percent for 2016 and 2017.

The campus notified U.S. News that the correct number for fiscal year 2016 was 7.9 percent, according to the release.

“As soon as we were aware of the matter, we reported it to U.S. News and provided corrected data,” reads a statement from UC Berkeley in an email from campus spokesperson Michael Dirda.

According to Dirda, U.S. News changed its metrics of measuring alumni donation rates in 2014, when the publication began excluding multiyear pledges from the measure — counting instead only cash donations.

According to the campus’s statement, UC Berkeley regrets its overlooking of the change in U.S. News’ metrics and hopes to work with the publication moving forward.

“The then-new change in methodology was apparently overlooked, as we continued using the previously existing U.S. News reporting guidelines,” the campus statement in Dirda’s email reads. “We regret the oversight and look forward to working with U.S. News regarding any additional steps that need to be taken.”

Alumni donation rates make up 5 percent of a college’s ranking, according to the U.S. News press release. UC Berkeley — along with Scripps College, Mars Hill University, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Johnson & Wales University — will remain in the Unranked category until the next publication of U.S. News’ Best Colleges rankings.

UC Berkeley will also be required to send letters to U.S. News for the next three years verifying that the data provided is accurate, according to the release. The letter will need to be signed by both Christ and UC President Janet Napolitano, “verifying the accuracy of all information submitted to U.S. News.”

“U.S. News will require certification for the next three years that the data reported to U.S. News for UC-Berkeley has been reported accurately on our three Best Colleges surveys,” said Brian Kelly and Robert Morse of U.S. News in a letter to Christ and Napolitano.

Ben Klein is an assistant news editor. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @BenKlein_dc.