Rice University remains the best college in Texas according to US News & World Report's 2015 rankings. But it's hanging on to the top 20 by the skin of its teeth.
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Rice fell from 18 last year to 19 this year. It's unclear who or what knocked the university down a peg from that slightly more secure position - that's not so easy to tell from the US News rankings. They claim to have a lengthy algorithm that takes into account a laundry list of variables including graduation rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, endowment and the recommendation of high school guidance counselors. Maybe the folks at Princeton could figure it out - they placed first yet again.
Still, Rice was the only Texas school to make the top 20. University of Texas dropped from 52 to 53, while Texas A&M went up one ranking to 68. Southern Methodist University jumped two spots from last year to 58.
UT-Austin President Bill Powers told the Texas Tribune large, public universities have a hard time performing as well as other schools that top US News rankings because of factors outside a public university's control that impact the rank, like SAT scores. "I take them with a grain of salt but that's different than saying we ought not care about them," Powers told the Tribune. "Three-quarters of our class is admitted without regard to SAT scores, so it is not surprising we don't do quite as well in that."
US News ranked Rice 9th in a separate "Great Schools, Great Prices" list, which weighs academic quality against the cost of attendance for students receiving need-based financial aid. Rice again demonstrated a certain care for economic diversity when it tied with MIT for the 7th spot on a list of universities that enroll low-income students. Rice also placed 8th among private universities whose students graduate with the least debt.