S.C. schools earn top marks from U.S. News

In the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings, the Citadel came in at No. 3 among regional universities in the South and No. 1 among public regional universities in the South.

Twenty-one South Carolina colleges and universities made appearances in the latest school rankings from U.S News & World Report.

The Citadel was ranked No. 3 among regional universities in the South, the College of Charleston was tied at No. 11 in the same category, and Charleston Southern University was tied at No. 93. For purposes of the rankings, regional universities are defined as offering “a broad scope of undergraduate degrees and some master's degree programs but few, if any, doctoral programs,” according to the U.S. News & World Report website.

Clemson University was tied at No. 61 among national universities, and the University of South Carolina came in at No. 108.

The Medical University of South Carolina, which also appears on the latest national hospital rankings from U.S. News & World Report, is tied for No. 28 among nursing graduate schools, tied for No. 60 among full research medical schools, and tied for No. 78 among primary care medical schools.

The Citadel is touting its fifth consecutive year ranked as the No. 1 public regional university in the South. Mark Bebensee, associate provost for academic affairs at the Citadel, said the school does not actively seek to boost its ranking, but the No. 1 spot is “nice affirmation,” particularly because part of the ranking formula is based on peer reviews from leaders at other schools.

“I think a lot of times potential students and parents are using things like U.S. News & World Report rankings to get some idea about the potential value that they're about to spend money for,” Bebensee said.

Since U.S. News & World Report started publishing the school rankings in 1983, critics from within and outside of academia have been urging prospective college students to take the lists with a grain of salt. In 2013, for example, John Tierney, writer for The Atlantic, wrote that the organization frequently adjusts its metrics, making it difficult to compare rankings from one year to the next. He also wrote that the metrics frequently encourage schools to spend more money and to boost the size of their applicant pool for the purpose of appearing more selective.

In a September 2013 interview on WAMU's “The Diane Rehm Show,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said of the ranking system, “I think there are lots of problems with it, frankly, and I think it has created a lot of perverse incentives that actually increase costs for families like yours.” President Barack Obama has also criticized the rankings while announcing that his administration was working on its own nationwide college ranking system.

In response to critiques of the U.S. News rankings, Bebensee said that many of the quantitative measures incorporated in the ranking formula are positive marks for a school.

“We pay attention to those things like everybody else does, but it's all things that are good to be good at like retention rates, graduation rates, student-faculty ratios, how selective we are with admissions, and what percentage of alumni donate to the college,” Bebensee said.