LSU, Southern rankings fall

LSU dropped four spots in the top tier of the U.S. News & World Report’s prominent “Best Colleges 2012” list released Tuesday, while Southern University fell out of the highest rankings of the “Best Black Colleges.”

The biggest positive jump for an in-state school was Louisiana Tech University, for the first time moving into the top tier of the “Best National Universities” below Tulane University and LSU.

Louisiana Tech finished in a nine-way tie for 194th nationally — out of 202 top tier schools — now that the highest tier was expanded last year from roughly 130 schools to about 200.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the University of New Orleans scored in the second tier.

LSU ranked in a four-way tie for 128th nationally — down from 124th last year — along with Colorado State University Hofstra University and the New School in New York.

LSU first broke into the top 130 in 2007.

LSU Chancellor Michael Martin was quick to note Monday that LSU improved in “objective” performance measures like freshman retention rates and alumni donors, but the university suffered somewhat in the peer review scores, called the undergraduate academic reputation index.

“We came out remarkably well given that there has been national news on our state budget situation,” Martin said, arguing that news headlines about university budget cuts have made an impact.

LSU ranked ninth out of 12 Southeastern Conference schools in U.S. News, having fallen behind the University of Kentucky in the new rankings.

“We’re going to get them back,” Martin said. In two or three years, he said, “I feel like we can crack the top 100.”

LSU finished above the University of Arkansas, the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University.

LSU also placed among U.S. News’ list of “A-Plus Schools for B Students.”

Southern University, the Baton Rouge campus, and Grambling State University both dropped out of the top tier of the best 36 historically black schools. Last year, Southern and Grambling tied for 34th. They are now in the second tier with Southern University at New Orleans.

Southern Chancellor James Llorens said the university deserves to rank in the top tier. But he said he recognizes Southern’s state budget cuts and student enrollment losses have caused damage.

“We’re right on the cusp,” Llorens said.

In the upper tier of black colleges, Xavier University and Dillard University in New Orleans ranked fifth and ninth, respectively.

Overall, in the prestigious national rankings, Harvard University and Princeton University tied for first. Yale University ranked third to round out the typical top-three scores.

Tulane ranked 50th nationally, a one-spot improvement from last year.

The oft-debated methodology for the annual U.S. News university rankings examines factors such as SAT scores, graduation rates, peer reputation and alumni giving.

In the U.S. News’ top “Best Regional Universities” in the South, Loyola University in New Orleans ranked eighth, McNeese State University came in 85th and Nicholls State University finished 89th.

In the second tier of regional universities, Southern, Grambling and SUNO sit alongside Southeastern Louisiana University, LSU in Shreveport, Northwestern State University and the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

In the “Best National Liberal Arts Colleges,” Centenary College of Louisiana scored 171st. In the “Best Regional Colleges” in the South, Louisiana College in Pineville came in 38th.

Amongst regional universities in the South, Southeastern finished with the most student debt load, with the average graduate in debt having a debt load of $36,560. Despite having one of the state’s lowest tuition levels, Southeastern saw 59 percent of its graduates finish in debt.

On the other hand, Louisiana Tech finished 10th in students graduating with the least debt out of the top national universities. Although 49 percent of students graduated in debt, the average debt load was $14,039.

U.S. News & World Report college rankings

Each year U.S. News & World Report ranks the nation’s colleges and universities primarily for academic quality. The top tier includes 202 schools. A separate listing ranks historically black colleges and universities.

The rankings of the universities in Louisiana and the Southeastern Conference are:

TOP TIER UNIVERSITIES

1. Harvard University.

2. Princeton University.

3. Yale University.

4. Columbia University.

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17. Vanderbilt University.

50. Tulane University.

58. University of Florida.

62. University of Georgia.

75. University of Alabama.

82. Auburn University.

101. University of Tennessee.

111. University of South Carolina.

124. University of Kentucky.

128. LSU.

132. University of Arkansas.

143. University of Mississippi.

157. Mississippi State University.

194. Louisiana Tech University.

SECOND TIER

University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

University of New Orleans.

TOP BLACK COLLEGES

5. Xavier University.

9. Dillard University.

SECOND TIER BLACK SCHOOLS

Southern University.

Grambling State University.

Southern University at New Orleans.

Source: U.S. News & World Report