Columbia Drops From No. 2 to No. 18 on University Rankings As School Officials Admit to Misleading Data

Columbia University fell 16 places from its original No. 2 spot in U.S. News's rankings after incorrect data was exposed by a math professor.

Columbia College campus at night
Columbia College campus.
(Peter Titmuss/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Columbia University fell to No. 18 on U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of top universities, a dramatic drop after school officials admitted they previously submitted faulty data.

The university originally ranked No. 2 on last year’s rankings of best U.S. universities, before math professor Michael Thaddeus posted an exposé blowing the whistle on inflated statistics misrepresenting the school’s class size, faculty education and instructional spending. Columbia was subsequently unranked by U.S. News and World Report and withdrew from participating in the 2023 ranking.

The annual list, released today (Sept. 12), ranked Princeton University at the top.

Columbia has since released two data sets after undertaking an internal review, one for Columbia College and Columbia Engineering and one for Columbia General Studies. Detailed information on the data sets and the university’s undergraduate degrees are also available on a new webpage.

“On two of the metrics questioned by our faculty member, class size and faculty with terminal degrees, we determined we had previously relied on outdated and/or incorrect methodologies,” wrote Columbia Provost Mary Boyce in a statement on Sept. 9, adding that the university had over reported the number of classes with less than 20 students and the number of faculty who had achieved the highest possible degree in their field. “We deeply regret the deficiencies in our prior reporting and are committed to doing better,” wrote Boyce.

Although Columbia did not submit data to U.S. News, the magazine still ranked it using data from sources such as the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics, the College Scorecard and peer assessment surveys, according to Gothamist.

Columbia Drops From No. 2 to No. 18 on University Rankings As School Officials Admit to Misleading Data