Princeton, despite annual spot at top, has interesting take on college rankings

After being named No. 1 by U.S. News for 13th consecutive year, school encourages prospective students to use other measures to judge potential schools

Social media blasts … marketing campaigns … billboards and radio ads.

Many schools will play up their position on the prestigious U.S. News & World Report college rankings, which were released Monday morning.

Princeton University, No. 1 for the 13th consecutive year, will not.

In what has become an annual tradition, the school downplays the achievement — an achievement so many other institutions would love to have even once.

Princeton, in fact, tells potential students to look away from the seemingly all-important rankings when looking for a school to attend.

“We continue to recommend that prospective students look beyond rankings and rely more on resources such as the Department of Education’s College Scorecard, which allow comparisons among institutions on important measures including the graduation rate for students from similar backgrounds, post-graduation outcomes, net cost and student and faculty engagement,” university spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss said.

It’s sound advice … but we’re guessing some other New Jersey schools will take advantage of the marketing opportunities that come with the list.

This year, a record six N.J. schools made the Top 100 on the national colleges list — and four others were in the Top 169.

More impressively, only one of the schools went down in the rankings. A look:

  • No. 1: Princeton University
  • No. 40 (tie): Rutgers University – New Brunswick (up 15 spots)
  • No. 76 (tie): Stevens Institute of Technology (up 7 spots)
  • No. 82 (tie): Rutgers University – Newark (up 33 spots)
  • No. 86 (tie): New Jersey Institute of Technology (up 11 spots)
  • No. 98 (tie): Rutgers University – Camden (up 29 spots)
  • No. 151 (tie): Seton Hall University (down 14 spots)
  • No. 159 (tie): Stockton University (up 23 spots)
  • No. 163 (tie): Montclair State University (up 19 spots)
  • No. 163 (tie): Rowan University (up 31 spots)

Statistically, Princeton’s spot at the top this year means every current K-12 student in New Jersey has only known Princeton is No. 1 in the country during their school career.

The ranking, however, is not what Princeton wants to be known for. And, while the ranking hasn’t changed, the school’s efforts to be even more inclusive have.

“Whatever rankings show from year to year, Princeton remains committed to contributing to the world through research and teaching of unsurpassed quality,” Hotchkiss said. “What has changed this year is that more Princeton undergraduates are receiving more financial aid, thanks to the university’s enhanced aid program. About a quarter of undergraduates now pay nothing to attend Princeton, and 66% of newly enrolled students receive aid — including many from families with incomes up to and even beyond $300,000.”

While there never will be agreement on rankings, any parent who has paid even one tuition will agree Princeton’s efforts on cost are worth bragging about — regardless of whether you blast it out on social media.