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The Forerunner

U.S. News and World Report

By Jay Rogers
Published April 2, 1990

Ranking America’s Leading Grad Schools

According to a recent U.S. News and World Report feature, “America’s Best Graduate and Professional Schools,” (March 19, 1990), professional education in the United States is booming. Enrollment among women and minorities is up from ten years ago and the United States remains the undisputed world leader graduate schooling.

The rationale given for ranking educational institutions, according to U.S. News, was to devise criteria based on “real information” in an attempt to assess the quality of professional schools. Seeing that there is little information available on the comparative merits of graduate education, the report attempts to give a accurate and current overview of the leading graduate colleges.

According to U.S News, “The sad truth is that it is easier to learn about the relative merits of compact disk players than it is to compare and contrast America’s professional schools.”

Assessing the much sought after professions of business, law, engineering and medicine, U.S. News formulated a ranking system based on the criteria of reputation, student selectivity, placement success, resources, faculty and graduation rates. Special departments of the graduate schools were ranked according to a survey of deans and heads of academic affairs programs.

Business – Among the 25 top business scools were Stanford, Harvard, UPenn, MIT, Dartmouth, Duke and Columbia. Ethics has become an increasing concern as business schools try to educate students to survive in a field in which “the golden rule may be replacing greed.” An increased emphasis on relevance and objectives characterizes business schools as the programs adjust to meet the demands of a fast changing world.

Law – Yale ranked as the leading law school by a wide margin, followed by the University of Chicago and Stanford. Also included were Columbia, Harvard, UPenn, Cornell and Boston College. Enrollment has increased dramatically in the last 25 years and the emphasis on gaining practical knowledge and experience is also inceasing. Leaders of the American Bar Association have called upon law schools for an “infusion of ethical and professional issues.” This concern is echoed in professional and academic circles as reform in the legal profession and the training of competent lawyers is seen as a drastic need.

Medicine – Harvard Medical School was chosen as “not only the country’s oldest and most innovative but also the best.” A new curriculum, Harvard New Pathway, implemented five years ago, has turned the responsibility of learning over to the students. Harvard Medical students become involved in patient care long before their internships. By cultivating attitudes and skills that will result in life long learning, Harvard hopes to produce compassionate doctors that have more involvement with their patients. Other schools chosen were Johns Hopkins, Duke, Yale, Cornell, Columbia, and UPenn.

Engineering – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology led the ranks of the best engineering schools in America. “The very name conjures up images of high-tech brilliance and cutting edge science,” said U.S. News. A significant trend among graduate engineering schools is that nearly half the doctorates awarded last year in U.S. universities went to international students. MIT was followed closely by Stanford and, not surprisingly, other Ivy League schools such as Cornell, Princeton, Harvard and Columbia also figured in prominently.

Financing a graduate education has become an increasing concern among America’s students; some tuitions have doubled or even tripled in the last ten years. The cost of graduate degrees and the prospect of getting deeply into debt has caused some students to wonder if schooling in the nation’s most prestigious institutions is worthwhile.

Yet most experts claim that the payoff for education at even the most expensive schools is well worth the investment. Lawyers, for instance, can regain more than $100,000 in debt and lost wages within five years of passing their bar exams.

Some students have resorted to working full or part time jobs, while attending graduate school on a part time basis. Night school is an alternative to many students who prefer to save money while working. Many businesses and firms pay partial tuition to employees moonlighting as students.

Despite skyrocketing costs and a highly competitive field of applicants it remains certain that graduate education will continue to be a much sought after avenue of life. The reputations of academic institutions are often crucial to the professional success of graduates competing for positions in elite law firms, renowned hospitals, businesses and engineering corporations. The future promises to hold a variety of educational opportunities for students seeking to expand their horizons.


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