We caution prospective applicants against being swayed by national rankings, which are deeply flawed in a variety of ways. In 2010, for example, the National Research Council, whose rankings were once considered authoritative, released its most recent survey. Attempting to avoid the false air of precision that came from ranking one program #7 and another #8, the NRC used a methodology too complex for non-statisticians to understand, in order to produce a set of evaluative “ranges” too ambiguous to lead to definite conclusions. For a good summary of the controversy when the report was first released, see: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/09/29/rankings
Programs that use the NRC report to claim an overall numerical ranking or that assert the NRC ranked them within some narrow range in specific evaluative categories are misleading prospective students. Search engines that base their rankings on the NRC data are even more of a nuisance; many generate wild, preposterous numbers.
Rutgers consistently placed within the top twenty programs in the NRC’s array of rankings, but for any program to make more precise claims than that would, in most cases, be deceitful.
In the absence of a reliable, mathematically defensible system of rankings, many of us fall back on the U. S. News and World Reports rankings, which put Rutgers at No. 17. But these rankings are notoriously amateurish, since they depend on the “votes” of random faculty members who may or may not be familiar with the programs they’re judging, and since this kind of opinion poll is rarely well informed about the latest shifts of strength within a program’s particular fields. Such rankings notoriously over-estimate hallowed, traditional programs, while they under-estimate up-and-coming schools.
We counsel prospective students to look askance at national rankings, and instead to research graduate programs on their own by comparing placement statistics, funding packages, faculty strength in their field(s) of interest, and whatever evidence of intellectual community and student morale they can glean (such as student publication records and the presence of interest groups in their area of specialization).