Lol. Newsflash RWJs are dead. No one said star. They said tenure-track placement. Didn't they teach you to read during your failed stay at Chicago?
Fake news. VAPs almost never become stars. 6 or 7 years is average completion at any top department and a postdoc after is common for stars. Look at all the RWJ people. Find me a Berkeley star that took 9-10 years to graduate and then did a postdoc to get a job.
Also look at how long it takes them to get tenure-track jobs. The few that do at Berkeley often do VAPs and postdocs even after taking a decade to graduate. They live on a pittance in the Bay Area after their fellowship ends in year five and they have to teach a bunch of courses to make ends meet for years after that. Don't assume you'll be that one of 24 in your cohort that ends up being the star, since half of you won't even graduate...
No one would group Duke and NYU with Indiana. They've had the best per capita placement lately. Indiana is pretty mediocre. Places with a ton of grad students like Berkeley, Princeton, and Wisconsin are a horrible bet for most of those students. Michigan and Harvard tend be safe bets, though they have off years.
The thing to keep in mind is how many students schools place well relative to their student size. Also, look at how long those students take to graduate. Ten years is common at places like Berkeley. Funding is key, too. Most privates will fund you well. Just avoid ones that hardly ever place well like Penn, Chicago or Stanford, if you have a choice. Lower ranked publics like Ohio State and Penn State are not great bets, in general. But, they have a couple of key strengths like demography and criminology that will get you jobs somewhere, if crappy location and low prestige aren't deal breakers. Below top 20 is very risky. You're probably better off doing something else with your life than taking that risk.
I think the new US News rankings are coming out soon so we will find out who actually did rise or fall, but mostly the rankings stay the same. The SJMR conventional wisdom is that Harvard, Michigan, and Berkeley are the top programs with a big scrum of schools like Wisconsin, UNC and UCLA a bit behind them. Other SJMR conventional wisdom is that Duke, Indiana, and NYU seem to do a bit better than their ranking in training/placement, while Stanford, Chicago, and Penn place substantially worse than their ranking. That's probably all mostly right, but beyond that don't get too caught up in whose stock is "rising" or "falling."
Generally if you were picking between, say, UCLA and Columbia, the ranking doesn't really matter. 3 spots is so small you might as well just ignore it. If you are picking between Berkeley and Columbia, that's a much more noticeable difference and there needs to be a very good reason to go to Columbia over Berkeley. And the difference between Berkeley and, say, Minnesota is really big and in almost every situation you should pick Berkeley. Don't get hung up on the little differences.
Prospective student with some great offers in hand here. Can I revive this thread and ask how much stock I should take in perceptions of schools being "rising" or "falling" stars? Take H/P/B. I've lurked on here a bit and have seen much doom and gloom about all of them, for different reasons. Would it be unwise, for example, to choose a school like Duke or NYU over one of them?