US News 2012 Top University Rankings released. UM #28

Submitted by samber2009 on September 13th, 2011 at 12:26 PM

US news released their 2012 rankings this morning. Michigan is #4 public school and #28 overall.  Northwestern tops the Big Ten (duh) at #12 overall.  Wisconsin at# 42, Penn State and  Illinois tie at #45, Ohio #55,  Purdue #62, Minnesota #68, Iowa and State #71, IU #75, Nebraska... still looking.


EDIT: Nebraska is #101 (thanks bronxblue). I must have scrolled over that a few times because I really did not see them.



September 13th, 2011 at 12:33 PM ^

I really wish someone sat down and did a comprehensive look at undergraduate programs by major (or school, depending on circumstances). Engineering and business are covered pretty well like this, but everything else seems left out to dry and we're stuck with dumbass rankings like US News.


September 13th, 2011 at 12:42 PM ^

I think that Forbes' rankings are more accurate.  Has a little more to do with student earnings after graduation.

...But I'm sure that no one here is going to like the publication because it includes liberal arts schools, and has Michigan ranked in the 200's nationally (second in the state behind Kalamazoo College, which was in the 50's I think).


September 13th, 2011 at 12:47 PM ^

For undergraduate education quality I wouldn't be surprised to see a ton of LAC's above big state schools in general. OTOH educational quality doesn't really tell you anything about how likely you are to get into a good grad school or job when deciding between IU SPEA and M Ford or studying Public Policy as an Arts & Science major at a school like Kalamazoo or Lake Forest (no, I have no idea if those programs exist at those schools, but whatever). There has to be a way to get a decent idea of this down into a measurable system.


September 13th, 2011 at 1:00 PM ^


and i like the forbes list because i think that - as shallow as it might be - student earnings after graduation are probably the most objective measurement.

if a publication wanted to get more in-depth, with percentage of students going on to complete PhD's, J.D.'s, M.D.'s, M.B.A.'s and other prominent masters degrees...that would be helpful as well.

p.s. - i'm going through the process of helping my little sister pick a school right now, so i've been looking all over for that kind of data.  the masters/professional program stuff has been tough to dig up, but i did see somewhere that Kalamazoo College is top 10 in the nation in number of PhD's awarded...which is very impressive for a school with a total enrollment of like 1,500 students.  i think that probably says a lot about the quality of education there...or maybe that they just strive to turn everyone into loser academics lol.


September 13th, 2011 at 1:41 PM ^

UofM honors seems to combine the best of both worlds.  But in terms of your normal LSA students vs. K-College...from what I've been able to're probably going to get a much better "overall" education at kalamazoo college than you will at michigan (the class sizes are ridiculously small).  but there are plenty of disadvantages as well...

1) no one outside of graduate school admissions officers knows that kalamazoo college even exists.  so if you want to get a job out of state right out of school, good luck.  if you want to go right into the working world after 4 years, it's almost essential to get a masters degree from a bigger name school.

2) kalamazoo college is a much tougher school than michigan.  it'll be a lot tougher to graduate from there with a good gpa than it would be from michigan.  so if you want to get into a great MD, JD, MBA, PhD program or whatever.....unless you're an academic might have to do a short pre-professional masters program somewhere among normal students to show what you've got (and you'll usually blow the competition out of the water there from what i hear).

overall though, it sounds like the proof is in the pudding.  they graduate really smart kids.  and even though those kids usually have a little more work to do after graduating, they usually end up reaching the upper levels of their chosen professions.


September 13th, 2011 at 2:19 PM ^

NSFMF!  In response to your point #1, how many people know/care about the honors college vs. regular LSA?  From my vantage point as a normal student, honors was NOT worth it.  I watched some of my friends take shitty, hard classes, and have it really not make a difference once they graduated. 

Sorry to brag, but I interviewed at several Ivies for grad school (biology), and while every interviewer brought up my MMB experience, not one asked why I wasn't in the honors college.  I'm just sayin...


September 13th, 2011 at 3:14 PM ^'re kind of missing the point.  i don't know how things work at UofM's honors college...don't know anyone that went there...but at a school like Kalamazoo College, the main benefit of the actual education seems to be:

very small classes.  you get to know your professors very well.  they get to know you very well.  you learn a great deal from them.  you become friends with them.  they become useful allies in navigating your future.  heads of departments can become your personal academic advisors (the friend i had said he had two there, the head of the psych department, and the head of the philosophy department...which he felt led to a great deal on invaluable wisdom).  

...and most importantly, they expect a great, great deal of you.  there's no multiple choice tests.  it's all big papers and essay exams...which are graded very harshly by PhD professors, not student aides.  attendence and participation are a part of your you have to do all the reading, show up to all the classes, and participate in all the discussions.  there are studies out there showing that this kind of stuff at schools like this really improves graduate school entry scores...writting skills...etc.

from what i understand, it certainly sucks a lot more than a normal school, but is well worth it in the end.


September 13th, 2011 at 1:09 PM ^

But the Washington Monthly's rankings DO break down PhD' awarded, research dollars spent, pell grants awarded, graduation rates, faculty awards and recognition, # of students who join the peace corps, the presence of ROTC on campus, the number of community service hours.

I think it's the most comprehensive list and a great way to figure out what school is a good fit for whatever you're looking for. (Michigan ranks 10th on it, btw)


September 13th, 2011 at 1:13 PM ^

The big thing with my gripe though, is the concept of ranking a school compared to ranking a university. Nebraska has a killer Agricultural Sciences school, but apparently it's business school is less than stellar. I'd love to see where Ag Science schools, Public Policy schools, A&S schools and the like all stack up for undergraduates, using something other than "%of alumni who donate" and other criteria of that nature.


September 13th, 2011 at 1:25 PM ^

That by ranking th universities as a whole, they are lumping together a lot of disparate programs and really telling you nothing about the experience you're getting for your specific program.

US News does have this kind of a breakdown for grad schools, but not so much for undergraduate programs I think.


September 13th, 2011 at 2:26 PM ^

There are many HS students that are not sure what they want to major to be in in college and what they want to be when they grow up. The benefit of a school like Michigan is that everything is at least decent, so there are choices.

I do agree that the overall rankings are useless in their current format. They should have a ranking of programs and then an overall average of those programs.


September 13th, 2011 at 5:10 PM ^

Agreed, it seems as though that using base salary would be the best measure. This would benefit schools with technical programs, Engineering, B-School, the like, and severely disadvantage tiny LACS. I remember even decades ago when I was doing my undergrad work at the Business School they loved to show you how much you would make right after undergrad. 

oriental andrew

September 13th, 2011 at 12:53 PM ^

There is no single standard or baseline for accuracy.  If you're trying to measure which schools overall tend to afford a higher likelihood of a higher salary post-graduation, perhaps you'd want to look at Forbes.  Then again, smaller and more focused colleges would obviously fare better in this area than large state universities.  This isn't necessarily a measure of quality of education. 


September 13th, 2011 at 1:26 PM ^

Plus in the sciences where hands-on experience is necessary for any type of advancement, smaller schools just can't offer the same as a state university....Engineering, biological research, medicine, physics, chemistry,etc. These fields needs money and expertise for top equipment and smaller libral arts schools can't cut it


September 13th, 2011 at 8:33 PM ^

My smaller liberal arts school strongly disagrees with you. Michigan students and professors routinely traveled to Albion to work in our shark lab for a day, whereas we had students work hands-on for years at a time. In addition, many U of M psych undergrads were floored when they learned students in my program (myself included) were often working on our 1st and 2nd publications, several of which we were first authors on.

While I understand my experiences are not all-encompassing, blanket statements such as "smaller liberal arts schools can't cut it" are just flat out wrong.


September 13th, 2011 at 10:08 PM ^

While in general this may be true for high level large Universities, there are definitely many exceptions to that rule.  The likes of Hope College, Calvin College, and Kalamazoo College all have strong undergraduate research programs in the sciences.  For instance, the Hope College Chemistry department is ranked as one of the highest in the country regarding reserach and other mitigating factors.  The last time time US News ranked undergraduate chemistry reserach, Hope College was ranked alongside the likes of Standford, MIT, and Michigan.


September 13th, 2011 at 1:26 PM ^

being the wise old man that i am now, this is what i would tell any kid about picking a college...

#1) define your goal, SPECIFICALLY.  i know it's tough for a 17 year old kid to decide, but do you know exactly what you want to do?  if there's a reasonable amount of doubt, you don't need to go to college yet.  you'll stress yourself out, you'll waste time, you'll waste money, and you'll more than likely end up screwed.

...take some time off.  really think hard about what you want to do.  come up with a top 10 job list.  intern/job shadow at all of them.  keep yourself in the academic groove while doing this by taking some easy, low stress, low time consuming basic general requirements at a local community college (and make sure you get all A's in them).

...if you trust yourself, your sibling, your child or whatever to not completely flake out and become a homeless poet...go abroad for a few months.  find a job, internship or - preferably - a short study abroad program.  get away from mommy and daddy for a little while and see what it's like to be an independent adult.  getting away from all of the usual influences and pressures and being introduced into a brand new culture will really help you determine what it is that's actually important to you.


#2) once you decide what you want to do...RESEARCH YOUR ASS OFF.  don't pay attention to generic college rankings like US News.  If you want to be an investment banker for goldman sachs, see which undergraduate schools they're hiring out of , and which majors they're looking for    (  (and which majors they're looking for).  If you want to be a big time lawyer, see which schools harvard law is accepting the most students from.  If you want to go to medical, look up undergraduate acceptance rates into medical schools.  If you want to get a PhD in a specific field, identify the top PhD granting program in that field, and see where their students are coming from. 

...Decide what you want to be.  Find people that are where you want to be.  Reach out to them.  You'll be amazed at how helpful they will be. 


I guess the main point of this now long rant is this.  high school kids get way, way, way too pressured into going right into college.  most of them have no idea where they're headed, and it results in a lot of headaches.  take some time to really figure it out.  and when you do figure it out, research your ass off before you start making decisions.  FIGURE OUT WHERE YOU'RE GOING BEFORE YOU START RUNNING.

Feat of Clay

September 13th, 2011 at 3:35 PM ^

That's super advice, IMO, but I would also temper it with this:

Don't feel like the endgame of all that research is to find the one and only place that is for you.  Don't think that there is just ONE place, and that you're doomed if you don't suss out exactly which one it is, or can't enroll there.  Don't freak out if the top-ranked places are out of reach, or don't feel right to you.  Why?   Because when all is said and done, you can get a damn fine education at a LOT of places.   And that's true even if your goals are unclear going into it.

I'm not diminishing the fact that U-M is awesome, or that a bunch of current students & alums think it's the best freaking place on the planet.  That's how they're SUPPOSED to feel, and as an alum myself I love that sentiment.  But in truth, there are a lot of potential "perfect fits" out there.  And if you end up at your second choice (or third, etc) because of not getting in, or not getting the aid you hoped for, or whatever, you can still carve out an awesome experience for yourself.  And you don't have to defend it to people who obsess over rankings, either.


September 13th, 2011 at 6:36 PM ^

oh of course man.

i didn't even get into that - probably because i've been spending so much time researching with my sister who has a lot of options - but it's very important.

getting obsessed with getting hired by a big investment bank, a big three consulting group, a big law firm, getting into a great medical school, etc...can lead to a TON of unecessary stress.

it's probably not a common tale, but take my wife for example.  she's smart, but slacked off big time in high school.  went to western.  started working hard.  tore it up because the classes are easy there and the competition is low.  graduated with a 4.0 gpa.  studied her arse off for the MCAT.  and now she's in her third year of medical school at the uofm.'s kind of like going undefeated in the WAC and making it to the national championship game lol.


September 13th, 2011 at 8:38 PM ^

I agree thats good advice, but if I had followed it I would be in quite a situation now. At the end of high school I was 100% sure that I wanted to be an engineer. However, after taking calc II (I shudder just thinking about it) and engin 100 I decided it just wasn't for me. Luckily Michigan is filled with good programs so I was able to switch to LSA and still get a good education. Had I sold out and gone to a school known for pumping out engineers (this argument is kind of invalid since UM is a great engin school) I could be in a much less appealing situation now.


September 13th, 2011 at 9:13 PM ^

well, if you had any doubt, i would've suggested that you job shadow/intern with an engineer of some sort...and you probably wouldn't have liked it...and you probably would've moved on to the next one.

what'd you decide on anyways?  just out of curiosity.


September 14th, 2011 at 12:10 AM ^

When I was an underclassmen I was sometimes uninspired by my classes - especially after the "weeder" type classes like Engin 100 and Math 216. But as I advanced in my classes, and then got out into the professional world, I realized what a joke those weeder classes are. They really mess with the heads of underclassmen trying to scare folks out of engineering and in the process misrepresent what it is you'll actually be doing. I really wish they'd change that - the country needs more engineers, and I'm not sure that those weeder classes do us any kind of a service.

Sorry for the slightly off topic rant.


September 13th, 2011 at 1:45 PM ^

By that measure, Harvard is first, and MIT is 4th. UM falls to 12th.

The overall rankings also include a social mobility rank, where state schools (especially larger ones, and HBCUs) have a huge advantage over schools like Harvard or MIT or any private school in general.

The list also includes a "service" rank. The reason for this is that they look at what they feel universities should be doing - building better citizens (service), expanding opportunities for their students (social mobility), and producing high caliber alumni and faculty (research). You can sort the list for any of the three categories by clicking on the links in the explanation paraagraph up top.

EDIT: Here's a link to the front page of the rankings -


September 13th, 2011 at 1:53 PM ^

I think the Forbes' ranking have West Point rated higher than Harvard.  And the arguments behind that decision are very convincing should you chose to look into it.  You'd be amazed how many high powered CEOs come from West Point.  That school's exists to create elite leaders, in all realms of life.

A lot of what makes schools like Harvard so "great" is where their students are coming from.  Some are just complete geniuses, for whom it would be hard to not become uber-successful (save a complete mental breakdown).  And many are just very rich kids, who have gone to the best private high schools, had the best private tutors, gotten the best possible education to that point....and who just end up making a million dollars a year for their father's consulting firm after graduating.  And then invest in real-estate or whatever lol. 

And think for a moment about the teachers you're going to have at a place like Harvard vs. a place like Amherst.  At Harvard the professors are going to be THE leaders of their field, and they're going to be focused on their own research careers.  At a place like Amherst, the teachers aren't as famous, but they're totally committed to TEACHING you.


September 13th, 2011 at 1:57 PM ^

Any undergrad overall quality rankings lacking USMA, USNA and USAFA are joking themselves. Each of those schools is as hard to get into as any of the Ivy's, and if first job compensation is a factor, every single graduating senior will significantly outearn almost everyone at a state school, and probably half or 1/3 of an Ivy.


September 13th, 2011 at 2:09 PM ^

As a Michigan Engineering alum who's damn proud to be an Air Force officer and engineer - I can tell you that the average Michigan mechanical engineer outearns the average Air Force officer in their first job. And I graduated in the heart of the recession, just prior to GM entering bankruptcy. I'm sure the same is true for Michigan B-school graduates of the same time frame.

While military engineering is a unique example, my point is (as you pointed out before) different schools have different strengths and weaknesses. Rankings that cast as wide a net as these do don't tell very much to prospective students. But they're still fun to look at. And I still like the Washington Monthly's rankings since they have a specific purpose in mind when they cast these wide nets.


September 13th, 2011 at 2:16 PM ^

Are you talking base pay? Or total compensation? According to my calculations, my best friend out of the Naval Academy '11 is taking home about 4900 a month after taxes, including BAH (NB San Diego) and BAS, while the average MIT grad (67,000) is taking home about 4250 after taxes.

Of course if he was in a lower cost of living area, BAH would be less, but still should be high enough to be at the upper end of the food chain when it's all averaged out.


September 13th, 2011 at 2:25 PM ^

But then again, I was in West Texas for my first assignment. I was making a lot closer to $3000/month though, but it did get a bit closer when you factor in cheap life insurance and free health care (I feel a little uncomfortable getting too down into the weeds on my first paychecks).


September 13th, 2011 at 3:20 PM ^

with regards to west point graduates, i was talking more about students that went on to business and law school after doing their required service.  their average earnings are insane.  the army is by far the biggest alumni group in the country lol.  they have very powerful alumni groups at literally every major institution....michigan, harvard business, yale name it.  and those guys get you in.


September 13th, 2011 at 8:54 PM ^

against the Ivy's and other top research universities because the models are so different.  Roughly 80% of the teaching faculty at USMA are active duty Army officers (senior Captains & Majors) who recently completed a Master's degree at a top-tier graduate program.  The other 20% or so is comprised of civilian faculty and more senior military officers with PhDs.  The mission is different though such that all faculty are focused entirely on the development of their cadets.  So, whereas in a typical research university (where I work now), faculty are expected to allocate the their time according to research, teaching, and service (say, 40:40:20), at USMA, faculty - especially the mid-career instructors - are expected to devote a significantly greater amount of their time for office hours (I'm assuming it's similar at the other academies).  An 8:1 student-faculty ratio doesn't hurt either...  but hey, it's your tax dollars at work.


September 13th, 2011 at 12:33 PM ^

Good to see UM keeping firm as a top school.  In fact, I think they improved after a mini-slide (they were 29th last year, while in 2003 they were 25th I think).  Of course, take these rankings with a massive grain of salt, as ND is apparently an elite university despite having mediocre research options, and Wake Forest (while a good school) is about 1/5 the size of schools ranked around them. 

Feat of Clay

September 13th, 2011 at 3:45 PM ^

And the important context for all that "movement" in the rankings is that UM didn't get worse during that time.  If anything, it got a little better, because selectivity in admissions (measured by student quality measures, GPA and test scores) has been increasing slightly.  What changed is the weight that U.S.News chose to place on things. 

Also changed, perhaps, was the honesty of some of our 'peers' reporting, but that's another story.

Prestigious research universities like UM are big organizations with deep roots and long traditions of quality.   They don't change quickly, and any ranking which has institutions bouncing around a lot is pretty quetionable.  But then, an unchanged ranking doesn't sell new editions, does it?

James Burrill Angell

September 13th, 2011 at 12:34 PM ^

Think thats up from last year. I think we were 30 last year. Maybe the uptick in applications from the common application making us look more competitive drove us up. Though we were 28th, there was a three way tie for 25th so we were only one spot outside the top 25.