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Miami drops in latest U.S. News National College Rankings, succeeds in undergraduate program

Pamphlets and professors alike spread Miami University’s national and state-wide accomplishments from rankings of departments, research and student success. This year, the 2023-2024 U.S. News and World Report Rankings for National Universities added another high mark to Miami’s list.

Miami was ranked 133rd out of 1,500 public and private schools. Last year, Miami was ranked 105th overall.

Despite falling in the rankings, Miami placed 70th in top public schools and 11th in undergraduate teaching.

U.S. News creates its rankings to help prospective college students evaluate universities that best fit them. According to its website, the overall rankings are based on measures reflecting “academic quality and graduate outcomes.”

BaShaun Smith, Miami’s dean of students, said Miami’s graduating class of 2023 had a 98% placement rate in a job matching their degree earned or in the next level of education.

“I can tell you working at previous institutions, that's unheard of. I have students from my previous school that are still looking for jobs, and they graduated in May of 2023,” Smith said.

In ranking schools by undergraduate teaching, U.S News asked college presidents, provosts and admissions deans to name the universities whose faculty they believe have “an unusually strong commitment to undergraduate teaching.” 

Miami’s success in undergraduate teaching begins with a rigorous selection process.

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Amy Bergerson, dean for undergraduate education, said faculty must fit the Miami teacher-scholar model, which calls for expertise in multiple areas.

“We want people who are really good at their research and they're brilliant in their content areas in their particular specializations,” Bergerson said. “And who [have] the ability to be really good at communicating their passion for those topics to students.”

To support faculty, the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Howe Writing Center both offer tools and resources intended to boost Miami above other universities.

“They're a really important part of what makes Miami's faculty great because they also have great resources for when [faculty] feel like they need to do more,” Bergerson said.

Although there is an emphasis on research, Bergerson said Miami’s faculty more heavily prioritizes undergraduate education. At other institutions she has worked at, Bergerson has noticed faculty focus on research more than teaching.

Smith said after joining Miami this past fall, what really stood out to him was how much faculty members cared about each of the students.

“We are really focused on undergraduate students, and we're focused on their learning and not just … [getting] people through and out of this class and into the next class,” Smith said.

Sophomore Kate Gallo isn’t worried about Miami’s new standing. Her college decision didn’t factor in the rankings.

“I like the university for what it has to offer. I’m not gonna base it off of how other people rank it,” Gallo, a kinesiology major, said. “I guess that’s kind of why a bunch of people choose where they go to college.”

She posited the university’s rank change could be due partially to the increase in its acceptance rate over the past few years. 

U.S. News also ranks schools with top programs in eight specific areas. In these areas, Miami ranked 17th for strong learning communities and 34th for highly-regarded study abroad programs.

Smith said the opportunity to study abroad is important for students to grow in their learning.

“Getting the opportunity to study abroad, putting yourself outside your comfort zone, especially going into a non-English speaking area, it forces you to immerse in the culture,” Smith said. “It forces you to really engage with the people who are around you and give you a cultural experience.”

According to its website, U.S. News made several changes from its prior ranking method after considering academic reputation, cost of tuition and return investments. This year’s rankings focused more on outcomes of students from all socioeconomic backgrounds using newly available data.

Miami ranked 415th out of the 435 universities in social mobility, which is based on Pell Grant and first-generation graduation rate factors.

Miami was also 30th in Undergraduate Engineering Programs for schools without doctorate programs. 

Beena Sukumaran, dean of the College of Engineering and Computing (CEC), said Miami’s engineering program focuses on hands-on learning. Sukumaran said one of the goals of the curriculum is to build community and retain first-year students. 

“The way we have designed these courses is so that they work on a project that has some real-life impact and then use some of these math and science principles of that class,” Sukumaran said.

Sukumaran said although CEC attracts a more diverse student body compared to Miami as a whole, she wants to increase the college’s retention of women and minorities. She said the first step includes having more female faculty in the classrooms. 

Smith said Miami’s high ranking can be attributed to the commitment of the university to bettering those around them. 

“I had a great opportunity to meet with some student leaders… and they spoke about how much Miami has taught them, how much Miami has helped them grow as people,” Smith said. “They were students who care about other people.”

Additional reporting by Photography Editor Jake Ruffer.