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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

UC Davis moves from No. 10 to No. 6 on U.S. News and World Report ranking of public universities

Students share their thoughts on the change in ranking


By FAITH DEMEULENAERE — features@theaggie.org


The annual release of the U.S. News and World Report’s rankings of public universities serves as a benchmark — a litmus test of sorts — for these institutions to measure their progress and overall quality of education.

In a recent update, the University of California, Davis emerged as a star on this academic stage, moving up from the 10th to the sixth spot in the list of top public universities. This meteoric rise has placed UC Davis on par with renowned institutions like UC San Diego and the University of Florida. 

In their article, “How U.S. News Calculated the 2024 Best College Rankings,” the World Report shares their Ranking Factors list, including but not limited to: graduation rates, first-year retention rates, full-time faculty count, student-to-faculty ratio and graduate debt borrowing rates. 

In UC Davis Chancellor Gary May’s most recent school-wide address, “Welcome to a New Academic Year,” he comments on the fact that Davis has elevated itself in these areas and acknowledges the recognition of its status improvement in the list.

 “As we welcome a whole new class of Aggies this week, we want them to know they’re joining an institution that demonstrates excellence in research, teaching and public service every day,” May said in the address. 

May also acknowledges a possible reason for this positive shift stating, “[being] recognized as a leader in finding solutions for our most pressing global challenges such as climate change, food systems, global health and social justice.”

In response to May’s announcement on the subject, there has been a lot of discourse surrounding how the university’s students feel about being in a school with such an impressive rank. 

“I think that I do feel proud,” Sam Baron, a third-year political science major, said. “However, nothing really feels that different. I have always had pride in going to Davis. The numbers changing could never really affect my opinion of my school.”

Paul Linderman, a fourth-year environmental science major, shared his opinion on the change, stating, “…it’s nice to get recognition for the hard work of the students and professors to move up in the rankings. UC Davis is under-appreciated and it’s finally getting noticed.”

To explain this sudden shift that has staff and students buzzing, we must acknowledge that 2024 will be the first year of a methodology change to take into account topics relating to economic and social inclusion, such as first-generation graduation rates and social equity throughout school programs, according to the U.S. News and World Report’s website. 

To some, it seems surprising that UC Davis has moved up against schools such as UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara in the national university ranking to No. 28 — tying with USC (No. 28) and out-scoring NYU (No. 35).

Last year, Davis stood well below these universities that it has now outscored, as last year’s placement for Davis was No. 38 in national universities. So how did this methodology elevate Davis to such a high spot? The algorithm changes responsible for Davis’ climb in the rankings are in part due to the additional consideration of graduation rates for students who received Pell Grants, as well as metrics that consider first-generation college students.

In short, the methodology change of the U.S. News and World Report of 2024 that sent Davis flying up the charts is the reflection of a new concept that could be considered when a student picks a college: purposeful dedication to equitable access to education, lower-income student success and academic achievement of first-generation students. 

Students and statistics have noticed UC Davis’ consideration of the right to higher education for all students, no matter their background, and the U.S. News and World Report’s adjustments in scale now reflect that.


Written By: Faith DeMeulenaere — features@theaggie.org