LSU, Tulane slip slightly in U.S. News college rankings

Advocate file photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- An aerial  view of LSU's clock tower and parade grounds is shown in this Advocate file photo. Show caption
Advocate file photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- An aerial view of LSU's clock tower and parade grounds is shown in this Advocate file photo.

Louisiana’s top two universities each fell one spot in U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of the top schools in the country.

Tulane University fell to 52nd, while LSU dropped to 135th in the “Best Colleges 2014” list released Tuesday.

Louisiana Tech University, also made the top tier for the third time in a row, moving up nine spots to land at 190th, the highest ranking in school history.

Among the various lists that come out each year ranking colleges and universities, the U.S. News rankings have risen to the top of the heap.

College administrators generally pay more attention to the U.S. News list because students and their parents rely on those rankings over others.

LSU System President and Baton Rouge Chancellor King Alexander, however, said he doesn’t think all that highly of the U.S. News rankings because they generally favor smaller schools.

The online publication ranks schools based on a number of traditional measures including graduation rates, acceptance rate and faculty-to-student ratio.

They also rate schools on how much cash they raise from alumni, the amount of money spent on facilities and how they are viewed by peer institutions.

“You get a lot of points for turning away a lot of students and spending money on a small group of people,” Alexander said. “They don’t measure what you are getting for what you are paying. I generally pay more attention to rankings that measure value.”

“What it costs students or what it costs families has very little value,” in the U.S. News rankings, he said.

LSU ranked 67th among public universities and 12th out of the 14 Southeastern Conference Schools, finishing above Mississippi State University at 142nd and the University of Mississippi at 150th.

Earl Retif, vice president for enrollment management at Tulane, said it’s always significant to be included on the list although he doesn’t worry too much about exactly where his school falls.

Tulane hovers around 50th on the U.S. News list.

“Very minor differences determine where you are on the list,” Retif said. “There’s not that much space between number 40 and number 60.”

New York University, for example, came in at 32nd, 20 spots above Tulane, but a closer look at how the schools were scored shows that NYU beat out Tulane by only eight points out of 100, he said.

Retif said students should decide on a school based on what best suits them: a city campus like NYU or a more traditional campus like Tulane’s.

“The top 75 schools are all great schools,” Retif said. “It’s more important that students look for the right fit.”

Louisiana Tech President Les Guice called his school’s ranking a credit to faculty and staff.

“I’d like to congratulate them on this outstanding achievement and am delighted to see their efforts recognized on a national level,” Guice said in a prepared statement. “We have never been satisfied with where we are, but rather motivated by where we can go.”

The University of New Orleans and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette were included on the list among the top schools in the second tier.

In the top “Best Regional Universities” for the South, Loyola University of New Orleans ranked ninth while McNeese State University and Northwestern State University tied at 92nd.