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Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK – Students make their way around campus on Field House Drive near Lockett Hall during the first day of fall semester classes for LSU students on August 24.

LSU tumbled backwards a few spots in the U.S. News and World Report's latest annual ranking of top schools in the country, which LSU President F. King Alexander said is a direct result of state funding cuts.

Meanwhile Tulane, a private school and the state's highest ranking university, ascended into the list's top 40 most prestigious schools. 

LSU came in at No. 135 on the "2017 U.S. News Best Colleges" list released Tuesday – a drop of six spots from last year. The ranking is the same as its 2014 spot – the lowest it's landed on the list in a 10 year period. The highest LSU has achieved was in 2011 when it came in at No. 124. 

"Well after nine years and 15 budget cuts, that's what happens to you," Alexander said. The state has slashed higher education funding at a faster rate than any other state in the country over the past nine years as it's grappled with repeated state budget shortfalls. Higher education institutions lost 55 percent of their state funds over that period. 

About 30 percent of the criteria is tied to financial resources, like average spending on student instruction and research. Also weighed heavily are faculty salaries, student to faculty ratios, and proportion of full-time faculty compared to adjuncts, which are all hurt by loss of funding.

"You can't expect us to outpace universities that have not gone through what we've gone through," Alexander said. 

The rankings are also based on retention, graduation rates and ACT scores, among other academic benchmarks where LSU has touted improvements. 

LSU's 135 ranking is tied with Kansas State University, Mercer University in Georgia, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rutgers University, the University of Arkansas and the University of Mississippi. 

The top 20 schools on the list are all private schools. Princeton University came in first place, with Harvard in second.

Tulane, a private university, this year climbed to No. 39 – its highest ranking in more than 16 years. Last year, it ranked No. 41 and the year before it was 54.

“We are pleased by this national recognition and the spotlight it shines on the innovative and inspired teaching, learning and discovery happening at Tulane University,” Tulane President Mike Fitts said.

Louisiana Tech also landed on the list at No. 202, out of a total 220 ranked positions. 

The U.S. News and World Report has for years been considered the premier collegiate ranking in the country, but it's often criticized by schools for not considering a wider range of criteria. 

Alexander notes that LSU gets no credit for having low tuition, compared to other state schools, and for its students carrying significantly lower debt after they graduate. He said about 39 percent of LSU grads have student debt, compared to a national average of about 75 percent. 

"We're doing so much more with less, but that's not a category," Alexander said. 


Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen.