USM ranked 43rd most popular school in nation

University of Southern Mississippi's name is in lights and it is not for football this time – it is for a national ranking that puts the school above a slew of top universities including Duke, Georgetown, UCLA and Cornell - to name just a few.

US News and World Report magazine has ranked Hattiesburg's own Southern Miss the 43rd most popular school in the nation. That makes it the most popular school in the state; Ole Miss is clinging onto the list placed at number 127.

The rankings are determined by taking the number of applicants that universities accept, and then dividing that by how many of those invited to attend the school, appear on the roster come the fall. The resulting percentage is what the magazine calls the student yield – and USM has a yield of 48.5 percent.

"We've always believed that if we can get a student to campus, to walk these beautiful grounds, to meet our students, to meet our fine faculty, that we're going to close the deal and this is a reflection of that," said USM Vice President of Student Affairs, Joe Paul. "We don't want to be the best kept secret in the Gulf South, we want everybody to know how great this place is."

It's just the second year for the popularity ranking, which the magazine said will be an annual list. Last year, Southern placed in the top 20. This year, in the top 50, the university is in the company of all eight Ivy League institutions. The coveted one and two spots went to Harvard and Brigham Young University in Utah.