Issue Brief #1
 
 

Issue Briefs


Issue Brief 1: U.S. News and World Report Rankings Announcement (Sept. 10, 2013)

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The purpose of this issue brief is to provide messaging guidance for responding to questions and concerns regarding UMD's recent movement in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, released today.


Background

  • U.S. News announced on Sept. 3 a new methodology that has led to significant movement in the rankings of universities and colleges.

  • The University of Maryland has dropped from 19 to 21 among national publics, and dropped from 58 to 62 overall.

  • As always, the rankings are relative to the movements of other universities.

  • Rankings are based on 16 factors. UMD submitted the following data to U.S. News to determine our ranking:

    • We improved in five factors: Percent of classes with fewer than 20 students; Average faculty salary (two-year average, COL-adjusted); SAT score; percent in top 10% of high school class; expenditures per student (two-year average);

    • There was no change in five factors: six-year graduation rate (four-year average); first-year retention (four-year average); alumni giving rate (two-year average); student-faculty ratio; percent of full-time faculty;

    • We worsened in three factors: Percent of classes with 50 or more students; Percent of faculty with Ph.D.; acceptance rate;

    • There are an additional three calculated by U.S. News: peer assessment rating, high school counselor rating, and graduate rate performance. The weight given to peer assessment dropped in the new methodology.


Key Messages

  • A recent change in methodology by U.S. News has led to significant movement in this year's rankings of colleges and universities.

  • The University of Maryland continues to be recognized as one of the great public research universities, ranking 21st among public national universities.

  • Our consistent ranking as a top public research university is testimony to the strength of our academic programs and outstanding faculty and students.

  • We are firmly committed to building upon this excellence and further advancing education at this great university. We’ve recently employed the following initiatives:

    • Reduced the class size in two key freshman courses, "Academic Writing" and "Oral Communication," to allow instructors to give more attention and feedback to each student;

    • Provided additional funding for peer tutoring programs and hired additional advisors. We're also developing a new first-year innovation and research project to provide freshmen and new transfer students with a hands-on learning experience;

    • Hired 61 new faculty members for the 2013–14 academic year;

    • Increased resources per student; and

    • Redesigned courses to take advantage of online materials and tools to decrease textbook costs.


University Statement (to be distributed to the media by University Communications)
"We look to the rankings as just one of many external indicators of our educational excellence. We are proud to be ranked consistently as a great public research university by U.S. News and other respected sources. Although we may see slight fluctuations in rankings from year to year, the University of Maryland continues to be recognized for cutting-edge research and outstanding academic programs, the quality of our faculty and staff, and for our incredibly talented students."

Media Spokespersons
The official university spokespeople for this issue are listed below. Please direct all media and alumni inquiries regarding this matter to Brian Ullmann for triage and response.

  • Wallace D. Loh, President

  • Mary Ann Rankin, Senior Vice President and Provost

  • Brian Ullmann, Assistant Vice President, University Marketing and Communications

  • Katie Lawson, Chief Communications Officer, University Marketing and Communications


Response Guidance

  • If you receive questions from donors, alumni or other key constituents regarding UMD's movement, please borrow from the sample email copy below in your response.

  • The revised UMD boilerplate is included below. Please use this version for future marketing and communications materials.

  • If you include ranking information in materials or on your website, this language should be replaced with the new ranking. Sample: "Maryland is ranked No. 21 among public universities by U.S. News & World Report."


Sample Email
Dear ________________.

Today, U.S. News released its annual rankings of national universities. In this report, the University of Maryland dropped from 19 to 21 among public universities, and from 58 to 62 among all universities. I am writing to you today to give you some context for these rankings.

U.S. News rankings are based on 16 weighted factors, such as graduation rate, class size, student selectivity and academic reputation. Last week, U.S. News announced a new methodology that changed the relative weights of some of these factors, a change that has led to significant movement in the rankings. Of the 13 factors provided by UMD (U.S. News provides the other three factors, such as peer assessment), UMD improved in five factors, reported no change in five factors, and slipped in three factors. And yet, despite our improvement in a number of factors, U.S. News moved UMD down two spots.

There are many such rankings in any given year, and we view them as just one of many external indicators of our educational excellence. Indeed, we are proud to be ranked consistently as one of the very best universities in the world. Although we may see slight fluctuations in rankings from year to year, we are not focused on any single methodology, but rather on continued improvement in key institutional benchmarks such as graduation rate, first-year retention, class size, expenditures per student and faculty resources. With that in mind, we have taken measures, including hiring 61 new faculty members for the 2013–14 academic year, increasing annual per-student expenditures and reducing class size in two key freshman courses, just to name a few.

The University of Maryland continues to be recognized for outstanding academics, cutting-edge research and the exemplary quality of our faculty and students. Our academic reputation rests upon the strong community of Terrapins everywhere, of the impact we are making across the globe, and on the positive difference we are making in the lives of the citizens of Maryland and of the world. Ours is a sterling reputation of which all of us can be proud.

Thank you for your continued support and please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this matter.

Sincerely,
XXXX

UMD Boilerplate
About the University of Maryland
The University of Maryland is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, Maryland is ranked No. 21 among public universities by U.S. News & World Report and No. 14 among public universities by Forbes. The Institute of Higher Education, which ranks the world's top universities based on research, puts Maryland at No. 38 in the world, No. 29 nationally and No. 13 among U.S. public research institutions. The university is also one of the top 10 highest-rated D.C.-area employers, according to Glassdoor.com. Its faculty includes three Nobel laureates, two Pulitzer Prize winners, 49 members of the national academies and scores of Fulbright scholars. The university is recognized for its diversity, with underrepresented students comprising one-third of the student population.

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