For the past 40 years, the U.S. News & World Report has been ranking colleges and universities across the country. For the 2024 academic year, Howard ranks 115th in national universities, 26 spots lower than last year, prompting members of the Howard community to question the credibility of these rankings.
Howard’s Chief Academic Officer and Provost Dr. Anthony K. Wutoh said the reasoning behind the university’s significant drop in rank is due to a new metric system used by the company. He said there has been a change in the methodology, including the information used by third-party sources, impacting the way universities have been placed.
“One of the things that U.S. News has done is that they are relying less on data that is submitted by the universities. They’re using more third-party data. They’ve partnered with a publishing company called Elsevier, where that data comes directly from,” Wutoh said. “There are other variables that they used to rely on the universities to submit, but they’re getting that from other private sources now.”
According to Wutoh, the university continues to identify aspects critical to the progress of Howard as a whole, such as monitoring student outcomes, measures that he says have shown great success. He believes that the report has not and will not impact the university.
“The reports haven’t impacted us and the things that we believe are important and that we want to continue to monitor. Our four and six-year graduation, student retention, faculty productivity in terms of research and other areas,” Wutoh said. “We are going to continue to monitor and make sure that we’re making progress in those areas, regardless of our ranking with U.S. News & World Reports.”
Other universities such as Vanderbilt University similarly cited changes in U.S News’ methodology in a university-wide statement. The school dropped five spots to number 18.
“As a research university, we are particularly distressed at the lack of rigor and competence that has increasingly characterized U.S. News’ annual lists,” the statement said.
In a statement released by the university on Sept. 19 addressing the ranking, President Ben Vinson III said the ranking does not fully represent the university, including their strengths, assets and progress.
“Howard University is focused on providing high-quality educational opportunities to our students, fostering increased Howard-led innovation, and enhancing the Howard experience for students and faculty,” the statement said.
Kaiyah Branch, a senior TV and film major from Raleigh believes that the ranking given to the university does not accurately reflect the institution. She says HBCUs continue to be ranked much lower than other institutions, although they have so much to offer.
“Being ranked in 115th place out of other universities is shocking, and I feel that we should be higher than that. American PWIs being ranked much higher than any HBCU goes to show how the U.S. looks at us,” Branch said. “There are so many Black institutions that are amazing schools who have created successful artists, organizations and people in general, that are looked over.”
Before attending Howard University, Branch attended Winston-Salem State University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, transferring during her senior year. She describes not being sure Howard was the university for her, but seeing the campus for herself proved her otherwise.
“Originally I never imagined myself attending Howard and I was not going to transfer. The thing that influenced me to transfer was seeing all of the black artists, the variety of personalities, the community and everything else Howard has to offer,” she said. “That made me understand why Howard is called the melting pot, and that is also what drew me here.”
Chama Kabwe, a freshman international business major from Charlotte, says the ranking does not take into consideration every aspect of Howard. She believes that the rank inaccurately portrays the university, and its culture and history prove that.
“I chose Howard because I wanted to be around Black excellence. I wanted to go to a school where many of the greats have come from, a place where I could be challenged and set up well for my future,” Kabwe said. “I also wanted a place with a fun, vibrant community. All of which we have. That’s why I disagree with the ranking.”
Branch said what she believes to be an ambitious learning environment at Howard is what makes the university unique. The desire students have to be academically challenged is what makes Howard such a great school, she believes.
“Everyone here is competitive but wants everyone else to be successful. At other schools, students are okay with being the same and not pushing themselves, which is much different from Howard,” Branch said. “Here, everyone is competing to be the best version of themselves.”
Another aspect that Kabwe believes reflects the university’s notability amongst other universities is the success of past alumni. She said that Howard produces some of the most successful people in their chosen fields.
“Howard is known for its alumni. Famous Black actors, doctors, everything you could think of. It’s so inspiring to be able to attend a place like Howard. I want to be one of the greats, and here I can be,” Kabwe said.
“The rank doesn’t change how I view Howard, it’s still an amazing university,” Branch said. “And no matter what Howard’s ranking is, Howard’s name holds power.”
Copy edited by Alana Matthew