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Ranking not as meaningful as advertised 

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UNLV’s No. 12 rating doesn’t make it the next Harvard

I love UNLV, I really do. I think UNLV is an oasis of culture and intelligence in a desert of discontent. The UNLV campus is the most beautiful, liberating, intellectual and tolerant place in all of Southern Nevada. Because of my deep affection for UNLV, it pains me when I feel the need to critique it, but today I must. I do not critique for any failure, but rather for the university’s desire to be what it is not.

Two weeks ago, the magazine US News & World Report released their rankings of the most popular universities in the nation. The magazine based its rankings on what percentage of students who were accepted by a university actually decided to attend that school.

I have only ever attended the universities to which I have applied. Just recently, I applied to a few different universities for my Ph.D. program, but for my masters I applied to UNLV only. Prudent students apply to several universities and then choose the best fit for them based on academics, student life, location and other metrics. I think this is the assumption under which US News & World Report is compiling their data.

In the magazine’s rankings, UNLV came in 12, moving up from last year’s ranking of 25. According to the data, 59.7 percent of students who are accepted by UNLV decided to actually attend UNLV. That is an outstanding number, which does reflect the quality of UNLV. Good for us.

Our university was quick to point out our new ranking, as well as lump us in with some of the powerhouse names in the list. The university’s news release implies that our placement ranks us with other prestigious universities like Harvard (1), BYU (2) and Stanford (3). Hmmmm … That might be a bit of an overstatement.

It’s very important to put the list into perspective. Yes, there are some very big-name universities that come in just above our 12 place ranking (Yale, 8, and MIT, 9). And there are even some big names that are below us (Princeton, 13, Brown, 22 and UNC, 25), but who else scored big on the list?

The University of Alaska, Fairbanks is number four, Georgia Southern University is No. five and the University of North Dakota is No. 11. All of these schools, including ours, serve a region and are not nationally attractive schools like Harvard or Yale.

Let’s be honest with ourselves: We did not make the list because we are like Harvard, Yale, MIT or Stanford. We have a lot more in common with the University of Nebraska, Lincoln (6), The University of Memphis (17) and The University of New Orleans (18).

That’s OK though. We are a land grant university and our mandate is to serve the people of Nevada and provide the populace with higher education. As much as we might want to be ranked with Yale and Harvard, that’s just not who we are. And most importantly, it’s not who we are supposed to be. Our purpose is to provide a high level education to the good people of the State of Nevada. We’re doing that, and we are doing that well! So well in fact, that we have become an international campus serving the world.

Where we did excel on US News & World Report’s list is in acceptance and attendance. We accepted 5,222 students last year. That is a phenomenal number and only four schools in the top 20 accepted more. Of those 5,222 people who sought to better themselves, 3,115 chose UNLV (59.7 percent). Those are numbers of which to be exceptionally proud. Even Harvard and Yale combined didn’t accept as many students as we did.

UNLV educates the people. We open our arms in acceptance of all who are willing to work and learn. That is what we are supposed to do and, most importantly, it is what we are doing. The high acceptance numbers at UNLV make me far prouder of my university than being ranked on a list with those elitist schools who are more concerned for their names than their students.

I know what UNLV is and what it is supposed to be. I do not need some poorly tabulated list to validate my university. UNLV validates itself every time a student learns. I am a proud student of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and I hope you are as well.

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