As university rankings better reflect reality, FIU is rising to the top | Opinion

The way universities are ranked in America is changing.

This year, U.S. News & World Report, arguably the gold standard of rankings for prospective students and their families, has been losing its shine. Prominent schools such as Harvard and Yale began a revolt against the publication by pulling out of certain rankings after decades of complaints about its “profoundly flawed methodology.”

U.S. News & World Report is listening, and they are getting it right. It has revamped its methodology for the 2023–2024 graduate school rankings to more accurately reflect schools’ recent performance rather than history.

For example, in the overhauled law school rankings methodology, U.S. News lowered the importance of historical wealth and reputation factors, eliminated the weighting of expenditures and debt per student, decreased the importance of incoming LSAT and GRE scores and GPAs and, instead, heavily increased the weight of performance factors such as employment after graduation and bar passage rates. Because of these consequential changes, Florida International University stands out as a prime benefactor.

FIU Law, having graduated its first class in 2005, now ranks No. 60 among the nation’s best law schools and 32nd among public schools after a meteoric climb of 38 spots in the rankings. This puts FIU among the top three law schools in Florida, one step behind FSU, and makes it the youngest law school in the state to have achieved such a record.

FIU Law is now one of the youngest public law schools to have such an astronomical rise in the entirety of U.S. News & World Report and is the second youngest (the first being its well-funded California counterpart, UC Irvine) in the top 60.

The change in ranking methodology has reflected what stakeholders have long known to be true: FIU’s reputation is vastly superior to what previous rankings would have had you believe. This represents a coming of age for FIU because, in implementing these changes, U.S. News finally is catching up with FIU in recognizing that rankings should be based on performance, not history.

The law school’s meteoric rise, however, is not the full story. A law school does not a university make. Laudable achievements in architecture, business and medicine have catapulted FIU to higher levels of academic excellence. For example, while FIU Law has just come of age, FIU’s School of Architecture, founded in 1997, frequently has been ranked among the world’s best and was most recently ranked by QS World University Rankings No. 16 of all architecture schools at U.S. public universities.

Likewise, the FIU College of Business, the largest business school in South Florida, has been ranked by U.S. News No. 2 and No. 4 in its undergraduate international business program and its international MBA program, respectively.

Furthermore, after opening its doors in 2009, the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, the youngest of FIU’s professional colleges, just announced an alliance with the largest private health system in South Florida: Baptist Health. This partnership will help Baptist Health house a teaching hospital for FIU medical students, expand undergraduate and graduate medical programs, and significantly advance research. As the medical school approaches its 20th anniversary in 2029, it will surely achieve a similar vault in the rankings.

FIU is no stranger to being a wunderkind. In the 29th year after its opening, FIU (which, in 2025, will mark its 60th birthday) became the youngest university in the nation to be awarded a Phi Beta Kappa chapter by the nation’s oldest and most prestigious academic honor society. Furthermore, at 35, FIU attained the highest ranking in the Carnegie Foundation classification system in 2000, that of an R1: Doctoral Research University, exemplifying very high research activity.

We urge U.S. News & World Report to extend this change in their ranking methodology for graduate schools to their undergraduate rankings. No doubt the result will be FIU making additional jumps in the rankings, further solidifying itself as America’s fastest-rising university.

Modesto A. Maidique is a professor of business administration and president emeritus of Florida International University, where he served as president for 23 years. Leonardo J. Fernandez is a research assistant and Honors College student who has worked with Maidique since 2022.