The University of Pennsylvania slipped to eighth place in this year’s “US News & World Report” rankings. While eighth is obviously highly respectable — placing Penn in the highest echelon of American universities — it is the lowest ranking the school has received in the last decade. So how does Eric Furda, the Dean of Admissions, respond? He downplays it…of course. What’s he going to say — that the school’s academic standing and reputation significantly worsened over this past year? Not exactly.
There have been a number of ties among the top universities over the past few years, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Penn has slipped a bit in the rankings. And it also shouldn’t make students, faculty, and administrators that upset. A fall from fifth to eighth is not going to have a longstanding impact on a university’s reputation in this world. While the “US News & World Report” rankings are highly valued both within the United States and abroad, a slip of a spot here or there doesn’t make all that much difference.
For those, however, who say that the “US News & World Report” rankings don’t matter, we beg to differ. Oh, they matter. A great deal. They are a key and instrumental component of college admissions. College admissions officers fight each year to maintain or improve their standing in this very ranking. So to say they don’t care is false. It’s an excuse. Eric Furda cares. He won’t deny it. He’s an honest guy. There’s just not a whole lot he can do about the results right now. It’s not like he has a game tomorrow where he can fix it all. He’s got to wait until next year, after another batch of applicants. And maybe — just maybe — he’ll manage to improve Penn’s ranking to what it was last year.