US News and World Report has included Boston College's schools of Education and Law in its recently published rankings of the nation's top graduate programs.
The Law School was ranked 27th, while the School of Education tied for 31st place in the survey, which covers the 1997-98 academic year and was the main feature of the magazine's March 29 edition. US News also ranked graduate schools in business, medicine, engineering, public affairs and health. Doctoral program rankings will be published in the magazine's America's Best Graduate Schools guidebook available on April 6.
Harvard University finished first in the graduate education school rankings, followed by Columbia University, Stanford University, the University of California at Los Angeles and UC-Berkeley. Yale University was the top-ranked law school, with Harvard, Stanford, New York and Columbia universities rounding out the top five.
Though the Law School ranked 22nd and SOE was listed at 25th overall in the 1996-97 US News survey, administrators noted that the magazine used a different method to compute the latest rankings. Comparing specific indicators for 1997-98 with the same indicators for previous years offers a more revealing and useful portrait of the schools, they said.
SOE Dean Mary Brabeck said the school had, for example, improved its academic reputation ranking among deans from 52nd in 1995 to 32nd in 1998, and its rating among school superintendents has remained steadily in the top 20. Other survey statistics show that the proportion of applicants accepted into SOE graduate programs narrowed from 60 percent in 1997 to 55.8 percent last year, and that external funding climbed from $4.4 million in 1995 to $8.9 million in l998.
"It's also important to note," Brabeck said, "that we are the only ranked school of education in a Catholic university to make the top 50 and, other than Harvard, the only New England school in the top 40."
Similarly, the Law School saw several positive trends between the two most recent surveys, according to Acting Dean James Rogers. Its selectivity rate (which combines admission test scores, the median undergraduate grade point average and the proportion of applicants accepted as full-time students) improved from 30 percent to 28.5 percent, for example. The rate of employment for BC Law students nine months after graduation climbed from 90 percent to 93 percent.
Rogers noted that the numerical differences separating schools at the cusp of the top 25 and next 25 in the survey are often minuscule. The number of top 25 schools varies from year to year because some programs earn the same overall score, he said - last year, there were 29 schools in the top 25, and this year there are 26.
"Right now, we are in a situation where, inevitably, we'll bounce around in these rankings for little or no apparent reason," said Rogers. "But look at our long-term picture and you can see a lot more consistency. Our applications have been growing to the point where, although we have only about one-half of 1 percent of the seats in the entering class of all US law schools, we received applications from 10 percent of all law school applicants this year."
"The main point to be drawn from all this," said Dean for Enrollment Management Robert Lay, "is once you look beyond the aggregate score, you will see Boston College has a profile that is very competitive. Reputation, selectivity, external support - these strengths enable potential students to consider our other assets, such as our Jesuit and Catholic heritage, or proximity to Boston."
The US News survey did not assess graduate programs in nursing or social work this year. The Graduate School of Social Work placed 14th in 1997, while the School of Nursing ranked 24th in the magazine's 1998 rankings.
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