U.S. News National University Ranking Simulations

Using Hanover Ranking Simulator

Jorge Martinez


Executive Summary

Ranking simulations1 Table 1. Ranking Simulation Summary.

Increasing our six-year graduation rate to our goal of 70% increases our national rank 64 spots, from 168 to 104.

Increasing average faculty salary by 5.6% from $95.7K to $101K increases our rank by 7 spots, from 168 to 161. Increasing this value to $111K increases the rank further, from 168 to 158.

Increasing our peer score from 2.9 to 3.0 improves our rank from 168 to 161. If we improve our peer score to 3.7 like our aspirational peers our rank jumps to 126. See appendix and this report for comparable and aspirational peers.

Increasing alumni giving by 3 percentage points from 12% to 15% increases our rank by 7 spots. Increasing it to 17% (Texas A&M rate), the rank improves further, from 168 to 158.

Improving the proportion of classes with less than 20 students to 45% (University of South Florida rate) increases our rank from 168 to 158. Increasing this value two more percentage points boosts ranking to 150.
show 5 influential factors to increase UH national ranking. In order of greatest impact they include six-year graduation rates, faculty salary, peer score, alumni giving rate, and proportion of classes with fewer than 20 students. Table 1 below outlines key findings with a baseline simulated rank of 168 (see next section for discussion). Reaching aspirational peer values shows UH can rank as good as 57. With more modest goal setting, UH can improve ranking to 118.

U.S. News Factor 2020 Value Peer/Goal Value New Rank Rank Improvement
Graduation Rate 58% 70% 104 64
Average Faculty Salaries $95.7K $101K 161 7
—Average Faculty Salaries $95.7K $111K 158 10
Peer Reputation Score 2.9 3 161 7
—Peer Reputation Score 2.9 3.7 126 42
Alumni Giving 12% 15% 161 7
—Alumni Giving 12% 17% 158 10
Proportion of Classes < 20 45% 158 10
—Proportion of Classes < 20 47% 150 18
Improvement to all aspirational peers values 57 111
Modest improvement to all values 118 50

Hanover Ranking Simulator

The Hanover Ranking Simulator2 See video tutorial for the ranking simulator. offers “what if” simulations allowing institutions to adjust ranking factor values to see where the biggest impact can be made to improve their National University Rankings. Figure 1 shows a screenshot of what the simulator looks like.

Figure 1. Ranking Simulator Baseline for UH 2020 National Ranking.

Figure 1. Ranking Simulator Baseline for UH 2020 National Ranking.

The simulator for the University of Houston starts with a simulated rank of 168.3 Actual National Universities Rank for Issue Year 2020 is 185. Adjusting the values shows how this rank can change in different scenarios. It is a reconstruction of the data used by U.S. News & World Report (USNWR). An exact reconstruction is not possible because USNWR use proprietary data and methodology not publicly available. This parallel rank is the baseline rank for this analysis.


In this analysis, I recorded the change in rank for every unit change in factors available in the simulator. Figure 2 graphically represents how UH’s rank changes by each factor. Table 2 lists the most impactful factors based on the slope of change in rank (dashed-lines in Figure 2).4 Level of impact is measured by the standardized slope for each factor. More negative values indicate steeper increases in national ranking. Factors are measured in different scales (counts, percents, scores, ratios). I scaled the factors to have a mean of zero and standard deviation one to facilitate comparing different scales.