ITHACA, N.Y. — It’s every image-conscious collegian’s favorite time of year; U.S. News & World Report has released their annual update of college rankings.

Now, we’re just as aware as you are that rankings are a dime a dozen, just like those “best cities” lists that Ithaca shows up on a few times each year. But USN&WR is the most popular and commonly cited of the rankings, so the colleges and their students tend to give it extra credence.

In the update for 2017 undergraduate admissions, Cornell University maintained it’s ranking of 15th place on the “National Universities” list, while Ithaca College moved up three spots to sixth on the “Regional Universities – North” list. Since the report focuses on four-year degrees, TC3 and other community colleges weren’t analyzed.

According to the report, schools in the “National Universities” category offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and Ph.D. programs. Princeton is number one, followed by Harvard, and a tie for third place between U. Chicago and Yale.

Meanwhile, USN&WR states that “Regional Universities” offer a full range of undergraduate programs and some master’s programs, but few doctoral programs. The top school in the North region was Providence College in Rhode Island, followed by Fairfield University and Bentley University.

The ranking methodology is based off a number of parameters, including graduation and retention rates, academic peer assessment surveys (“reputation”), class size, faculty salaries, selectivity, financial aid, alumni success, and alumni giving.

For the Big Red, they can find something to brag about, and something to keep them up at night. For an example of the former, they are by far the largest school in the Top 15; one doesn’t find a larger school until you get to UC-Berkeley, in a three-way tie at #20. For an example of the latter, Cornell has dropped in ranking a bit since the 1990s, and is lowest ranked of the eight Ivies. Or as this writer likes to think of it, that’s like having the least comfy seat in first class. Try not to lose too much sleep, Cornellians.

As for Ithaca College, it’s the highest ranking the school has had in the report since it ranked sixth in the north region back in 1999. In other words, most of the kids starting college there next fall, and who will be glancing at this report, were born around the last time Ithaca College was ranked this high. Anyone else feel old?

Both schools also received a number of accolades in sub-categories. IC was tied for 2nd in Regional Universities, and Cornell 6th in National Universities for “Best Colleges for Veterans”, defined as “the top-ranked schools in the 2017 Best Colleges rankings that participate in federal initiatives helping veterans and active-duty service members pay for their degrees.” Cornell also ranked 10th nationwide for universities most recommended by high school guidance counselors, and 9th place nationally for both its engineering and business programs. The full suite of top ranks can be found here for Cornell, and here for Ithaca College.

Oh, and here’s a funny. The page for Cornell describes its setting as “rural”. Ithaca College’s page describes it as “suburban”. My guess would be that they’re looking at campus layouts (Cornell’s crop fields, Ithaca College’s love of the 1960s) rather than the actual setting, but it’s not defined.

So, some will cheer, some will panic, the marketing staff will be busy, and the rest of us will shrug, knowing that both schools provide excellent educations.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.