Despite rising average SAT scores and graduation rates, the University of South Carolina’s rankings in U.S. News & World Report’s annual college report slid this year.
Meanwhile, two Palmetto State schools – The Citadel and USC-Aiken – were ranked top public Southern universities and colleges, respectively, and Clemson University held its top-25 ranking among national public universities for a fifth straight year.
Coastal Carolina University slipped from 26th to 29th spot in the Top Public Schools - Regional Universities (South) category, a change school officials said was statistically insignificant.
“We are pleased that Coastal Carolina University ranks in the top tier in the Regional Universities (South) category for the second straight year,” the school said in an emailed stattement. CCU is ranked 63rd overall in the Best Regional Universities (South) category, the statement said.
USC placed 115th among all schools nationally – public and private – down four spots from a year ago. It ranked 55th among public universities, down one position, according to the U.S. News & World Report’s rankings released Wednesday.
The university’s rankings were hurt by a small drop in peer-review assessments from other college leaders, USC Provost Michael Amiridis said. U.S. News’ data also showed the percentage of classes at USC with fewer than 20 students fell as did the school’s rankings among high school guidance counselors.
On the plus side, the school’s student-faculty ratio improved as did its six-year graduation rate – up to 70 percent from 67.5 percent in the latest years available, according to university data. Average SAT scores rose 14 points in the past year to 1199.
Amiridis said he is happy with the school’s core performance. He added the school will try to show off new programs that could bolster its reputation since peer review accounts for more than 20 percent of the ratings. Those programs include USC Connect, which provides out-of-classroom experiences for students, and Palmetto College, which will provide online courses to students at USC’s regional campuses.
“We need to share our message better in the national media,” Amiridis said. “You need to take some risks (with new programs) to become more widely known.”
As an example, Amiridis said USC worked to build its undergraduate international business major, ranked the nation’s best for the 16th consecutive year. That helped the Darla Moore School of Business overall, which moved up one spot to 40th among business programs nationwide.
“This continued leadership in international business education is a tribute to faculty and staff who are dedicated to an innovative, responsive curriculum,” said Moore School Dean Hildy Teegen, who is stepping down next year.
For a third year, South Carolina’s Columbia campus was among “A-Plus Schools for B Students,” strong-rated universities that accept a significant number of applicants. About six in 10 applicants are accepted at USC. The school’s student population stands at an all-time high, passing 30,000.
How others in S.C. fared
Clemson University’s rankings stayed the same from last year – 68th overall nationally among public and private universities and 25th among public schools. Clemson ranked again in the top 10 among up-and-coming schools based on peer reviews.
A pair of USC regional campuses were ranked Nos. 1 and 2 among public regional colleges in the South. USC-Aiken again took the top spot. USC-Upstate rose one position to second. USC-Beaufort remained eighth.
The Citadel topped Southern regional public universities for a second year, while the College of Charleston was fourth and Winthrop was seventh.
S.C. State gained a spot among historically black colleges to 14th and two positions overall among public universities to 77th. Neighboring Claflin University was unchanged at eighth among historically black colleges.
Columbia College fell to 74th from 56th last year among Southern universities, while Columbia International University jumped to 56th from 80th.
U.S. News’ rankings are dismissed by some academics as arbitrary, but they have become one of the key guides that students and parents use in choosing a school.
“Prospective students and their parents are sensitive to these rankings, and they play a factor in student recruitment,” Robert Barkley, director of undergraduate admissions at Clemson, said in a statement. “Being recognized as one of the top universities in the nation helps us compete for top students and enhances the value of the Clemson degree.”
The rankings have been the subject of controversies.
Last month, Emory University said it had sent U.S. News misleading data for a decade, according to published reports. And Clemson has denied accusations that it selectively admits students, shifts class sizes and disparages other schools in peer reviews to improve its rankings.
Staff writer Steve Jones contributed to this report.