The University of Texas at Arlington is about as diverse a campus as you can find in America, according to the latest rankings from U.S. News & World Report.
The publication’s “diversity index” measures where college students are “most likely to encounter undergraduates from racial or ethnic groups different from their own.” In its current rankings, UT Arlington tied for the fifth most diverse campus in the country.
The data from the 2012-2013 school year found that of UT Arlington’s 33,311 students, 22 percent identified as Hispanic, 14 percent as black or African-American, 10 percent as Asian, and 9.3 percent as international students.
“It is no surprise that UT Arlington would be recognized nationally for its commitment to diversity and for ensuring that students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to earn their education and become citizens of the global community,” said president Vistasp M. Karbhari in a statement. “This is who we are and what we do every day.”
The University of Houston actually ranks slightly higher than UT Arlington, tying for second most diverse with several other schools. It was also a good day for Houston's version of an Ivy League-level school.
U.S. News places Rice University 18th among national universities in its new rankings. The highly anticipated annual update touts Princeton University No. 1 overall, ahead of fellow real Ivies Harvard and Yale.
Rice does a little a better in the Best Value category, where a $20,672 "average cost after receiving grants based on need" earns it a 14th overall standing. Rice is the top Texas representative in both categories but comes in behind Duke University and Vanderbilt University in the South.
Other Texas schools in the top 100 are the University of Texas (52), Southern Methodist University (60), Texas A&M (69), Baylor (75) and TCU (82). The University of Houston came in at 190th.
Critics point out that parents shouldn't take the rankings too seriously for a number of reasons: Universities engage in a variety of tricks to game the system, such as soliciting applications from unqualified students to lower their acceptance rate; much of the ranking is based on a squishy "prestige" factor; and the system encourages schools to spend money, which adds to the rising costs of college.
In a speech at the State University of New York at Buffalo this summer, President Barack Obama recently said that he would prefer to see rankings on a different model.
"I think we should rate colleges based on opportunity," he said. "Are they helping students from all kinds of backgrounds succeed, and on outcomes, on their value to students and parents."
U.S. News raised the importance of graduation rates and other outcome metrics to 30 percent of the ranking. That didn't affect the schools at the very top, but it did drop the University of Texas at Austin outside the top 50 to 52nd overall.