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Cornell moves up a notch in 2015 U.S. News rankings

Cornell has moved up one spot in the annual college rankings from U.S. News and World Report, which places the university at No. 15, up from 16 last year, out of 280 schools that offer a wide range of undergraduate majors along with master’s and doctoral degrees.

That ranking, based on graduation and retention rates, the quality of faculty, and assessments by peer institutions and high school guidance counselors, also qualified Cornell for No. 15 on the publication’s list of “Great Schools at Great Prices,” which compares academic excellence with the net cost of attendance for a student who receives the average need-based financial aid.

Cornell was ranked ninth among national universities for economic diversity, down from eighth last year, as measured by the percentage of undergraduate students receiving Pell grants.

Among schools offering doctorates, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management ranked 11th in Undergraduate Business Programs, down from 10th last year, and Cornell ranked 10th among Undergraduate Engineering Programs, down from seventh. Those two rankings were based solely on a peer assessment survey conducted in spring 2014, according to the U.S. News website.

In the engineering subcategories, Cornell had several fields ranked in the top 10: civil (9), computer (9), electrical/electronic/communications (8), industrial/manufacturing (10), materials (6) and mechanical (8).

In the business subcategories, Dyson was No. 10 in the quantitative analysis ranking.

On the list of “Programs to Look For,” Cornell again was cited for “Internships,” which “encourage students to apply what they’re learning in the classroom to work in the real world through closely supervised internships or practicums, or through cooperative education,” and for “Writing in the Disciplines,” which makes “writing a priority at all levels of instruction and across the curriculum.”

Along with compiling statistics, U.S. News asked deans and faculty members at peer institutions to evaluate their peer schools and specialty programs, ranking them on a scale of 1 to 5. Cornell averaged 4.5 on these peer assessments, and 4.8 in similar ratings by high school guidance counselors.

The overall rankings also factor in a school’s financial resources – how much it has to spend on its students – and alumni giving, seen as a measure of satisfaction.

The U.S. News editors remind readers that ratings are not the whole story, and students’ decisions should also take into account location and the feel of campus life; the range of academic offerings, activities and sports; and the cost and availability of financial aid. They also recommend campus visits.

The U.S. News and World Report rankings were released online Sept. 9, and the print edition of its “Best Colleges 2015” guidebook will be on newsstands Sept. 23.