U. ‘pleased’ with grad rankings

Ellie Levitt

April 21, 2010

Last week, U.S. News and World Report credited Penn graduate and professional programs with several substantial improvements over the past year.

The 2010 best graduate schools rankings included five of Penn’s graduate programs. All of Penn’s standings either improved or remained the same except for the Wharton MBA program, which dropped two spots.

The most notable of the rankings was for the School of Medicine, which rose to second place for research. In 2009, Penn Med was ranked third behind Johns Hopkins University.

Penn Med attributes its rise to two main factors, according to Penn Med Chief of Staff Susan Phillips. The first is a significant increase in additional National Institutes of Health funding, which includes money provided as part of the federal stimulus package. The second factor is that Penn Med’s score and rank in the magazine’s survey of residency directors increased over the last year as well.

Though Penn Med is pleased with its new ranking, administrators do not think the change will significantly influence applicants.

“We do not think they are ultimately a determining factor in a student’s choice,” Phillips wrote in an e-mail. “We consistently receive between 5,000 and 6,000 applications for approximately 150 positions in the school.”

David Petersam, founder and president of Admissions Consultants, said medical school rankings hold less weight than those for law and business programs.

“The bottom tier MBA programs will accept just about anybody, so a lot of people therefore put a lot of weight on the rankings,” he said.

Bev Taylor, founder and director of Ivy Coach, agreed that medical school rankings are fairly inconsequential.

“It matters so much to students that they just get into a U.S. medical school, that the rankings become secondary for most,” she said.

Both admissions officers additionally stressed that other factors such as financial aid are more important to applicants than annual rankings.

Wharton administrators could not be reached for comment.

Similar to the attitude of Penn Med, the University as a whole does not feel heavily influenced by the rankings, according to Penn President Amy Gutmann.

“We don’t place significant stock in these rankings, but we are aware that they serve as one of several measures that prospective students use to make their decisions about graduate school,” Gutmann said. “Therefore, we’re pleased to have once again been ranked among the very best.”