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.
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.