ITHACA, N.Y. — Oh, September. It brings the first orange-hued leaves of fall, crisper mornings, and for every image-conscious school of higher education, the annual rankings from U.S. News and World Report.

Yes, major news outlets like the Washington Post might pontificate that the USN&WR rankings don’t matter. Academic papers from Cornell professors say otherwise. While there are numerous college rankings from different organizations looking for a slice of publicity, U.S. News is one of the best known and most influential.

In the update for 2017-18 undergraduate admissions, Cornell University moved up one notch on the “National Universities” list to 14th place, while Ithaca College slid two spots to eighth on the “Regional Universities – North” list. Since USN&WR rankings only look at schools offering four-year degrees, TC3 and other community colleges weren’t analyzed.

As seen in the chart above, a ranking of 14th is Cornell’s best since 2009. However, it should be noted that Cornell is actually in a four-way tie for 14th, with Ivy League peer Brown University, as well as Rice and Vanderbilt. As a land-grant college, it’s the highest-ranked school that accepts state funds (though 5th-ranked MIT was initially funded with land-grant dollars as well). Princeton University continued it’s reign over all comers, ranked #1 for the seventh year in a row. The complete list of the top 20 can be found here.

Among individual accolades, Cornell ranked 3rd for “Best Colleges for Veterans”, 5th in “High School Counselor Rankings”, 7th for its undergraduate business program and 10th for its engineering college. Cornell has consistently performed well in these categories. If there any takeaways from these results, it’s that while Cornell’s undergraduate student population has expanded by over 1,000 students in the past several years, its faculty and staff have managed to maintain the quality of its offerings to bright young minds.

Across town on South Hill, Ithaca College dropped a little bit in the regional rankings of four-year colleges, from 6th to 8th, which is still better than the ranking of 9th they held two years ago. The Bombers were also ranked #13 for “Best Value Schools”, which according to the report, “takes into account a school’s academic quality, as indicated by its 2018 U.S. News Best Colleges ranking, and the 2016-2017 net cost of attendance for a student who received the average level of need-based financial aid. The higher the quality of the program and the lower the cost, the better the deal.”

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 once again Providence College in Rhode Island, followed by Bentley University and Fairfield 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.

Correction: M.I.T. is not a land-grant institution, but was a recipient of a portion of Massachusetts’s land-grant dollars 150 years ago. The Voice regrets the error.

Brian Crandall

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