Which Ranked Universities Are Doing Better Than Their Academic Reputations?

See exclusive lists comparing schools' overall ranks to their reputation ranks.

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U.S. News is publishing a first-ever analysis of colleges in our National Universities ranking category that are overperforming or underperforming their undergraduate academic reputations in terms of their overall Best Colleges 2013 rankings. This concept measures the degree to which a university's overall position in the rankings exceeds or falls short of its undergraduate academic reputation rank.

How should these results be interpreted?

If a school is doing better in the overall rankings than in its undergraduate academic reputation, it means the school is performing relatively well in the other key academic indicators used in the rankings: admissions selectivity, financial and faculty resources, alumni giving, and graduation and retention rates. It also means that a school's undergraduate reputation among its academic peers is lagging behind the progress the school has achieved in the underlying academic indicators. 

On the other hand, if a school's academic reputation ranking is better than its overall ranking, it means that the school's performance in the key academic indicators used by U.S. News is not keeping pace with its academic reputation. This could mean that the school's undergraduate academic reputation is benefiting from a much higher reputation held by its various graduate schools. Or, it could mean that the school's reputation has yet to fully reflect negative trends that are taking place in the underlying academic indicators.

All the top overperforming universities except South Carolina State University are private schools. Many of the overperformers are relatively small research universities that grant fewer doctorates and conduct less research than others schools in their category. All the underperformers are large public universities—in some cases the top "flagship" public in their state—whose academic reputation rank exceeds the performance in the academic indicators.

For National Universities, the U.S. News ranking formula gives the academic reputation peer score a weight of 15 percent in the overall ranking model. Peer assessments are subjective, but they are also important because a diploma from a distinguished college helps graduates get good jobs or gain admission to top-notch graduate programs.

Only schools that were numerically ranked National Universities in the Best Colleges 2013 rankings were included in this analysis.

Overperformers

The table below shows the top 15 overperforming schools in the National Universities ranking category, where a school's overall numerical rank in the 2013 Best Colleges rankings was better than the school's academic peer assessment rank by the largest number of ranking places.

School name (state) U.S. News National Universities rank Academic peer assessment rank Overperformance
Adelphi University (NY) 155 213 +58
Ashland University (OH) 189 247 +58
University of St. Thomas (MN) 113 171 +58
Stevens Institute of Technology (NJ) 75 134 +59
St. Mary's University of Minnesota 174 238 +64
Azusa Pacific University (CA) 179 247 +68
Edgewood College (WI) 179 247 +68
University of Tulsa (OK) 83 151 +68
Yeshiva University (NY) 46 118 +72
Biola University (CA) 174 247 +73
Andrews University (MI) 189 264 +75
St. John Fisher College (NY) 151 226 +75
South Carolina State University 147 226 +79
University of La Verne (CA) 165 247 +82
Maryville University of St. Louis (MO) 160 247 +87


Underperformers

This table shows the top 15 underperforming schools in the National Universities ranking category, where a school's overall numerical rank in the 2013 Best Colleges rankings was less than the school's academic peer assessment rank by the largest number of ranking places.

School name (state) U.S. News National Universities rank Academic peer assessment rank Underperformance
Arizona State University 139 70 -69
University of Arizona 120 59 -61
University of Illinois—Chicago 147 94 -53
Virginia Commonwealth University 170 118 -52
University of Montana 199 151 -48
University of North Carolina—Charlotte 199 151 -48
University of Colorado—Boulder 97 51 -46
George Mason University (VA) 139 94 -45
University of New Mexico 179 134 -45
University of Oregon 115 70 -45
University of Utah 125 82 -43
University of Maryland—Baltimore County 160 118 -42
Indiana University—Bloomington 83 44 -39
University of Kansas 106 67 -39
University of Colorado—Denver 189 151 -38


The ranking data above are correct as of Nov. 29, 2012.