The U.S. News & World Report college ratings are out, and LSU remains in the top tier – something that LSU has managed to continue for the last decade despite all the stories you may have heard about how Bobby Jindal gutted the Ole War Skule.
LSU has been ranked in the top tier for best universities in the country for the tenth straight year, according to rankings from U.S. News & World Report. The university is ranked 63 out of 190 public universities.
The university is the highest ranked university in Louisiana, according to Washington Monthly’s recently released 2017 College Guide and Rankings. Among public SEC schools, LSU is ranked fifth, ahead of the University of Alabama, Auburn University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, among others.
LSU was also ranked high in career earnings of graduates. Graduates have early career earnings of $52,700 and mid-career earnings of $100,400. Compared to other SEC schools in career earnings, LSU is only behind Texas A&M and the University of Florida.
While Washington Monthly has LSU as tops in the state and fifth in the SEC, LSU doesn’t beat Tulane in the US News & World Report survey – Tulane is 40th. The top SEC school, unsurprisingly, is Vanderbilt, which checks in at No. 14. Florida is the next best SEC school at No. 42, Georgia is third at No. 54, Texas A&M is fourth at No. 69, Auburn, South Carolina and Tennessee are tied at No. 103, Alabama is at No. 110, Missouri is at No. 120, and LSU is tied at No. 133 with Arkansas and Kentucky. Ole Miss is at No. 145 and Mississippi State is last in the league at No. 171.
Those rankings aren’t great, but they’re not terrible either. If you’re looking to pick a college offering you an education you can monetize with a decent job after you graduate, which is really the wisest criterion you can apply to your choice of schools unless you have tuition money to just set on fire, then LSU ranks pretty well. That’s largely due to the fact LSU’s programs in engineering, business and the hard sciences are quite good, and have lots of students enrolled in them. It’s not really a liberal arts school.
What’s interesting about this is last week, there was a POLITICO piece about the US News & World Report college rankings which accused the publication of contributing to income inequality and the establishment of a caste system by ranking schools essentially according to factors that mitigate toward how many rich kids go to school there.
And one of the money quotes from that piece came from LSU’s president F. King Alexander.
“I think U.S. News has done more damage to the higher education marketplace than any single enterprise that’s out there,” said F. King Alexander, president of Louisiana State University.
Alexander noted that a key to success in the rankings is paying higher faculty salaries and spending more per student overall, which drives up tuition in an era when sticker price has kept many low-income students from even applying to college.
Much of the score “is about spending the most amount of money on the fewest amount of students — and generally, students you already know are going to succeed,” Alexander said. “We’re spending more money on students who need it the least — and U.S. News gives you high marks for that. I call it ‘the greatest inefficiency ranking in America.’”
This is, of course, the problem with ranking colleges according to their academic offerings. Princeton, Harvard and Yale are going to be in the top five of any rankings simply because of the money and tradition at those schools, but based on the news coming out of those campuses and the apparent radical-left insanity which has taken them over, are they really offering the best education in the marketplace?
And these rankings are anything but an accurate one-size-fits-all measure. Ask yourself this – if you’re going to major in petroleum engineering, let’s say, would you rather pay $28,000 in out of state tuition at LSU, which is one of the top eight programs in the country for petroleum engineering as ranked in the US News survey, or $49,000 at Harvard, which doesn’t even offer that degree.
To the extent Alexander’s point is that colleges ought to be rewarded for spending their dollars efficiently, and that in comparison to other national-brand universities LSU is being short-changed by the rating services because it runs a little tighter ship than a lot of them do (if you look a little you can find lots of waste in LSU’s budget, but it’s nothing compared to some of its peers around the country), he’s correct.
But US News & World Report isn’t in the business of rating colleges for how efficiently they spend their students’ tuition dollars. They’re in the business of rating colleges based on prestige and marketability, more than anything else. That LSU, which is poorly set up to rank well in that survey, maintains a spot in the top tier is a testament to the school.