On Tuesday, I met with Michael Ruffner, a spokesman for Louisiana State University-Baton Rouge, which is ranked in the Third Tier of National Universities in the 2007 edition of the America's Best Colleges. Ruffner and I discussed his belief that that some public universities don't fare as well in the rankings because they are Land Grant Colleges or Sea Grant Colleges, which means that they have to be more open in their admission policies since that is their mission. This makes it harder for them to compete against private schools that can be more selective.
Ruffner made the case that LSU-Baton Rouge is determined to improve as an institution. He discussed the investments in the school that the state of Louisiana was going to make through increases in state appropriations. Ruffner hopes these investments will translate into higher faculty salaries and better graduation and retention rates. He said that LSU-Baton Rouge realizes that if "we are going to be competitive with other flagship institutions, we will have to continue our efforts to become a better academic institution, and make the investments that are required."
U.S. News's policy in these meetings with school officials is to explain the overall methodology and a school's specific ranking. This means schools are able to understand which indicators U.S. News uses in the rankings and what those indicators mean in terms of their own data. I do explain to visiting officials that it takes time for schools to improve in the rankings and that those that have done it generally have a strategy of making across-the-board improvements.