Elon University has fallen in multiple categories across multiple college ranking lists, most notably the 49 spot drop in the U.S. News and World Report’s “national universities” ranking.

Elon also dropped 12 spots in “best value schools,” three sports in best study abroad programs and two spots in “most innovative,” all from U.S. News and World Report.

According to an Elon University admissions website, Elon University was ranked at No. 84 in national universities in 2019 and has since dropped to No. 133, but there may be a reason for the changes. 

This year, U.S. News and World Report changed its criteria for ranking national universities. The new criteria adds more weight to need-based Pell grants, retention, first generation graduates and how much graduates make compared to those who did not attend higher education. 

This means weight was taken off overall graduation rates, financial resources per student and small class sizes — something Elon prides itself on. According to an article by the New York Times, this new formula has especially affected the ratings of smaller, private universities. 

The U.S. News and World Report has summarized the school rankings to be "now comprised of varying outcome measures related to schools' success at enrolling, retaining and graduating students from different backgrounds with manageable debt and post-graduate success." It is also now primarily based on data rather than university submissions.

Since 2020, Elon has been placed in the top 10 for the total number of students studying abroad and the total number of doctoral students studying abroad.

Though Elon freshman Becca White said she didn’t care about school rankings when she first started applying to colleges, she said the drop in study abroad rankings made her have second thoughts.

"Part of the reason why I chose Elon was because it was No. 1 in study abroad," Becca said. "I really want to study abroad during my four years here, but after hearing that it's not a No. 1 ranked program anymore, I'm not sure if I'm going to trust Elon yet."

Vice President for Enrollment Greg Zaiser wrote in an email to Elon News Network that there are no metrics for study abroad ranking. 

"The survey is a result of higher education leader surveys which is why there's typically some fluctuation in this area," Zaiser wrote. 

According to Zaiser, Elon University's long-standing No. 1 ranking in study abroad has been a result of Open Doors, an informational resource on international students studying abroad at U.S institutions that is published by the Institute of International Education. 

"As I understand it, that's a function of the percentage of students who study abroad from different institutions. Given the reduction in the number of students who study abroad during the COVID-impacted school years, our ranking dropped there as well," Zaiser wrote. “However, with the number of students participating in Elon University's Study Abroad program now, Elon University hopes to reclaim their No. 1 spot.”

Nick Gozik, dean of global admissions at Elon, also wrote in an email to Elon News Network that Elon University is proud of its top 20 rankings for all eight experiential learning opportunities because it reflects Elon University's dedication to a well-rounded education.

“We are proud of the fact that Elon is No. 4 in the U.S. for study abroad,” Gozik wrote. “This puts us in the same league with other universities that have made a name for themselves in terms of global, including New York University, Georgetown, and Middlebury.”

Rankings in other categories have been released as well. The university was ranked No. 1 in “first-year experiences,” “best undergraduate teaching” and “learning communities.” Elon was ranked No. 3 in “service learning,” eight in “co-ops and internships,” nine in “senior capstone,” 11 in “undergraduate research and creative projects,” 12 in “writing in the disciplines” and 13 in the most innovative categories. 

Zaiser also wrote Elon University doesn't expect these rankings to affect the 2023-24 admissions cycle. 

"Our ranking is still strong and it's part of the fabric of Elon," Zaiser wrote.

White said she doesn’t agree with Zaiser and thinks the 2024 college rankings will affect the next round of admissions.