The U.S. News & World Report annual undergraduate rankings include much for which the Georgia Tech community should be proud, including No. 1 in the nation in aerospace and industrial engineering, No. 2 in biomedical, chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, and No. 3 in environmental, No. 4 in engineering overall, No. 5 in computer science, and top 20 in business. We are also proud to be listed among the best public universities in the nation, even if this year we were listed five positions lower than last year (No. 15 versus No. 10).
In interpreting rankings, it is important to keep in mind that different rankings focus on different metrics, which will resonate with students and families differently — and the metrics may vary from year to year. I always recommend that families look at a variety of rankings, understand their unique methodologies, and then make their own assessment based on their own criteria. For example, the U.S. News & World Report ranking values how much a university spends per student. Thanks to our fiscal prudence and our enrollment growth, we have been able to streamline costs per student and, therefore, lower tuition and fees, while delivering some of the best student outcomes in the nation. We see that as a positive even if it costs us a few positions on a specific ranking.
Overall, though, we are proud to be consistently listed among the best public universities in the country by a multitude of rankings: Forbes (No. 12), Niche (No. 3), Money (No. 6), Payscale.com (No. 8), and Wall Street Journal (No. 15). The more a specific ranking focuses on value for students, the higher Georgia Tech tends to show.
In addition to rankings, there are other sources that I encourage families to consider. The University System of Georgia offers a new tool, Georgia Degrees Pay, to compare cost of attendance, student success, and earnings after graduation for all public universities in our state. Georgia Tech leads the charts in terms of six-year graduation rates and salaries — we also are slightly pricier than the rest, though well below our peers nationally.
Also, The Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) publishes their Almanac annually. In the most recent edition, Georgia Tech is listed as having the No. 7 best graduation rate among public universities. Proudly for us, Georgia Tech does not appear among the 50 most expensive public universities for either in-state or out-of-state students.
Whatever rankings say about us, we always analyze their results to assess whether there’s something we agree we need to try to improve. For example, Georgia Tech doesn’t score well on U.S. News & World Report measures of social mobility. While our Pell students graduate at very high rates (No. 8 among public universities according to the CHE Almanac), we do not serve as many Pell students as we should. The fact that we are now the No. 3 most selective public doctoral university (according to the CHE Almanac) is making it harder. Yet UCLA and Berkeley, the only two universities that are even more selective, manage to attract more Pell students than we do.
One of the goals in our strategic plan is to expand access to careers in science and technology, and the number of Pell students we serve is a good metric of progress. Increasing the number of low-income students we serve will require more targeted recruitment efforts and, most importantly, more philanthropic resources for need-based student financial aid — the top priority in our comprehensive campaign.