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We thought it. We know you thought it too—but sadly, it wasn't meant to be.

It looks like this year wasn't the year that UF would become a top five public university. While it is great that UF’s rank just keeps on getting higher and higher, we believe that our increasingly high ranking only emphasizes how much improvement is truly needed in areas that don’t factor into our ranking.

These past several years, UF has been on a ferocious sprint up the mountain of (public) college rankings.

Now, as the banners and trumpets come out once again to celebrate the triumph of good (UF) over evil (other highly-ranked public schools), we, the Editorial Board of The Independent Florida Alligator, would like to remind our readers that college rankings really are just a numbers game and that we wish UF spent more time and money on improving our school in ways that aren’t considered into our national ranking.

As a quick refresher, last year the Georgia Institute of Technology tied with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for the coveted number five spot. That means there was no number six ranked school and the University of California Santa Barbara tied UF for the number seven spot.

This year, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has held onto the number five spot and the University of California Santa Barbara is still tied with UF — though now for the number six spot. There is no number seven or nine spot as there is now a three-way tie for eighth between the Georgia Institute of Technology, University of California, Irvine and University of California, San Diego.

The pecking order of top colleges is more or less the same, aside from the Georgia Institute of Technology which dropped a couple spots.

Now, without access to hard numbers beyond our overall ranking, we can't quite tell if UF actually got any better or if our rise to top six was driven by the Georgia Institute of Technology having a rough year.

As students who have been around UF for a while, we have seen the game UF is playing. Much like someone trying to exploit point values and percentages in a video game, UF has been pouring millions of dollars into improving the 50,000 foot-level metrics that U.S. News uses to calculate its ranking.

One clear example of this has been the “Faculty 500” initiative which aims to improve the student-faculty ratio from 20:1 to 16:1. No complaints there, though we recently wrote about how faculty wage increases are unlikely this year (“faculty salary” is weighted at 7%).

Another example of this has been through the UF Alumni Associations’ “My Gift. Our Legacy’ initiative in which UF students received a medallion to wear at commencement in exchange for donating $10. Alumni donations make up 5% of our ranking. UF should just pay us to donate money. It’s a lot simpler that way and honestly given the pandemic, we don’t have much cash to spare for UF’s wallet.

However, there are aspects to being a great university that can’t be measured by U.S. News’ rankings, aspects that are much more important to the lives of faculty and students than what percentage of our alumni donates each year.

What if “percentage of students testing positive for COVID-19” was a factor U.S. News used to calculate UF’s national ranking? Maybe it would be easier to get a COVID-19 test at UF.

If UF administrators approached pandemic mitigation with the same zeal and foresight that they did while planning our rise to top five, we guarantee you that we wouldn’t have ended up with a COVID-19 mitigation plan as coherent as a magic eight ball and as transparent as a scratch off ticket.

How different would UF be if U.S. News’ ranking took racial equity into account?

If UF administrators approached racial equity with the same zeal and foresight that they did while planning our rise to top five, we probably wouldn't have buildings named after racists, homophobes and segregationists. Maybe we wouldn’t have a disproportionately low amount of Black students.

UF’s metrics indeed rank it as the number six public school in the country, but there are so many other metrics that are not measured by U.S. News that fall far short of being what they ought to be for a school as highly ranked as our own.

Once we finally make it to the top of the mountain, the top five or perhaps the coveted number one spot, we can only hope that our administrators will look around and realize that there’s nothing left to do but focus less on pumping up 50,000-foot metrics and focus more on serving students and faculty while improving our school as a whole.

The Editorial Board is made up of the Editor-in-Chief, Digital Managing Editor, Engagement Managing Editor, News Managing Editor and Opinions Editor.