Rankings of universities in the United States

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College and university rankings in the United States are rankings of US colleges and universities ordered by contributing factors which vary depending on the organization performing the ranking. Rankings have most often been conducted by magazines, newspapers, websites, or academics. In addition to ranking entire institutions, specific programs, departments, and schools can be ranked. Some rankings consider measures of wealth, research excellence and/or influence, selectivity, student options, eventual success, demographics, and other criteria. There is much debate about rankings' interpretation, accuracy, usefulness, and appropriateness. The expanding diversity in rating methodologies and accompanying criticisms of each indicate the lack of consensus in the field.


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“30 Under 30”[edit]

Forbes compiled a list of 600 people — 30 in each of 20 industries — who it described as “the brashest entrepreneurs across the United States and Canada”, “trailblazers”, “bold risk-takers” and “innovators” “shaking up some of the world’s stodgiest industries”.[1] Forbes then listed the schools that produced the most members on the 30 Under 30 list, which was topped by Stanford.[2]

University No. of 30 Under 30 members
Stanford University 54
Harvard College 46
MIT 34
University of Pennsylvania 24
University of California at Berkeley 22
NYU 19
Yale University 19
Cornell University 15

Business Insider[edit]

Business Insider asks professionals which college they believe best prepares its students for success in life. The top three colleges in the 2014 survey were Stanford, MIT, and Caltech.[3]

Council for Aid to Education[edit]

The Council for Aid to Education publishes a list of the top universities in terms of annual fundraising. Fundraising ability reflects, among other things, alumni and outside donor's views of the quality of a university, as well as the ability of that university to expend funds on top faculty and facilities. Most recent 2017 rankings list the top 3 as Harvard, Stanford and Cornell.[4]

The Daily Beast's Guide to the Best Colleges[edit]

The Daily Beast's college rankings take into account nine factors, with academics, future earnings, and affordability weighted most heavily. The other criteria include graduation rates, diversity, athletics, nightlife, activities, and campus quality. Data comes from The National Center for Education Statistics, as well as private organizations like PayScale, for salary data, and Niche, for student opinions. The Daily Beast's college rankings report the top 250 scoring schools, with Stanford University at the top, followed by Harvard University, Yale University, MIT, and Columbia University.[5]

University College ranking
Stanford University 1
Harvard College 2
Yale University 3
Columbia University 5
Princeton University 6
Cornell University 7
University of Pennsylvania 8

Department of Education's College Scorecard[edit]

Beginning in 2015, the federal Department of Education has published a College Scorecard, which includes socio-economic diversity and SAT/ACT scores of the student body, graduation rates, and average earnings and debt of graduates at all colleges.[6]

The Economist's "Best Colleges. The Value of University"[edit]

The Economist's college rankings The Economist Magazine's List of America's Best Colleges focuses on comparable economical advantages defined as 'the economic value of a university is equal to the gap between how much its students subsequently earn, and how much they might have made had they studied elsewhere'. Based on set of strict criteria sourced from U.S. Department of Education ('College Scorecard") with relevant 'expected earnings' and multiple statistics applied in calculation of 'median earnings' conclusive evaluation method has been applied to run the scorecard's earnings data through a multiple regression analysis, a common method of measuring the relationships between variables.[7]

Name [8] Rank
Washington and Lee University 1
Babson College 2
Villanova University 3
Harvard University 4
Bentley University 5
Otis College of Art and Design 6
Lehigh University 7
Alderson Broaddus University 8
Texas A&M International University 9
California State University 10

Educate to Career rankings[edit]

Educate to Career[9] ranks school by improvement in earnings and employment in the labor market, based on percentage of students employed in occupations that use their field of study, weighted against national norms.[10]

Faculty Scholarly Productivity rankings[edit]

The Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index by Academic Analytics ranks 354 institutions based on faculty publications, citations, research grants and awards.[11][12]

Forbes college rankings[edit]

In 2008, Forbes.com began publishing an annual list of "America's Best Colleges".[13] Post-graduate success (self-reported salaries of alumni from PayScale, and data from the Department of Education) constitutes 35% of the score. Student debt loads constitute 20% of the score. Student experience (retention rates reported by the Department of Education, and data from Niche) constitutes 20% of the score. Graduation rates constitute 12.5% of the score. Academic success (using both the percentage of a school's student body that goes on to obtain doctorate degrees, and those students who have won one of a diverse array of prestigious academic awards) constitutes 12.5%. Public reputation is not considered, which causes some colleges to score lower than in other lists. A three-year moving average is used to smooth out the scoring. The 2018 ranking puts Harvard University at the top, followed by Yale University, Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Princeton University.

University Top College Ranking
Harvard University 1
Stanford University 2
Yale University 3
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 4
Princeton University 5
University of Pennsylvania 6
Brown University 7
California Institute of Technology 8
Duke University 9
Dartmouth College 10
Cornell University 11
Pomona College 12
University of California, Berkeley 13
Columbia University 14
Georgetown University 15
University of Chicago 16
Northwestern University 17
University of Notre Dame 18
Williams College 19
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 20

Innovative universities[edit]

Reuters ranks the most innovative universities in the world based upon its assessment of the educational institutions "doing the most to advance science, invent new technologies and power new markets and industries".[14] The assessment evaluates 10 different metrics, "focusing on academic papers (which indicate basic research) and patent filings (which point to an institution's ability to apply research and commercialize its discoveries)", and ranks them based on their performance.[15] For the third year in a row, Stanford University has topped the list as the most innovative university in the world, followed by MIT and Harvard in second and third places.[16]

Reuters: World's Most Innovative Universities (2017)
College College ranking
Stanford University 1
Harvard University 3
University of Pennsylvania 4
KU Leuven 5
University of Washington 7
University of Michigan 8
University of Texas system 9
Vanderbilt University 10

Money's "Best Colleges"[edit]

Money's college rankings take into account 21 factors that it categorizes as measures of educational quality, affordability, and alumni earnings. The rankings considered 1500 four-year colleges and reported the top ranking 736. In 2019, according to Money, the top 5 colleges are UC Irvine, Baruch College, Princeton University, UCLA, and UC Davis.[17]

College College ranking
University of California, Irvine 1
Baruch College 2
Princeton University 3
University of California-Los Angeles 4
University of California-Davis 5
Stanford University 6
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 7
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 8
University of California-San Diego 9
University of Virginia 10

Niche rankings[edit]

Niche provides rankings and reviews of colleges in the U.S. Their Best Colleges ranking focuses on academics, diversity, affordability, and student satisfaction. Their most recent ranking places MIT at the top, followed by Stanford, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton Universities.[18]

University College Ranking
Stanford University 2
Yale University 3
Harvard University 4
Princeton University 5
Duke University 6
Brown University 7
Columbia University 8
University of Pennsylvania 9
Rice University 10

The Princeton Review Dream Colleges[edit]

The Princeton Review annually asks students and parents what their dream college is, if cost and ability to get in were not factors. Over 10,000 students and parents responded in 2016. The top dream school for students is Stanford, for the fourth year in a row. The top dream school for parents is also Stanford, for the fifth year in a row. Stanford won out over Harvard and NYU among students, and led Harvard and Princeton among parents.[19]

University Students' Dream
College Ranking
Stanford 1
Harvard 2
Columbia 6
Princeton 7
Berkeley 8
Pennsylvania 9
Yale 10
University Parents' Dream
College Ranking
Stanford University 1
Princeton University 2
Harvard College 3
Duke University 5

Revealed Preference Rankings[edit]

Avery et al. pioneered the use of choice modelling to rank colleges. Their methodology used a statistical analysis of the decisions of 3,240 students who applied to college in 1999.[20] MyChances.net adopted a similar approach starting in 2009,[21] stating that its method is based on this approach.[22] The study analysed students admitted to multiple colleges. The college they attended became the winner, and the others became the losers. An Elo rating system was used to assign points based on each win or loss, and the colleges were ranked based on their Elo points. A useful consequence of the use of Elo points is that they can be used to estimate the frequency with which students, upon being admitted to two schools, will choose one over the other. The most recent preference ranking by Parchment placed MIT at the top, followed by Williams, Stanford, US Air Force Academy, and Claremont McKenna College.[23]

University/College Total Points
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2239
Williams College 2161
Stanford University 2131
United States Air Force Academy 2116
Claremont McKenna College 2107
United States Military Academy 2104
Columbia University 2096
Bowdoin College 2095
United States Merchant Marine Academy 2095
Yale University 2077

Among national universities, the top ten are:

National University Total Points
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2239
Stanford University 2131
Columbia University 2096
Yale University 2077
Princeton University 2064
California Institute of Technology 2044
Brown University 2032
Dartmouth College 2028
Duke University 1995
University of California, Berkeley 1973

The top ten national liberal arts colleges are:

Liberal Arts College Total Points
Williams College 2161
United States Air Force Academy 2116
Claremont McKenna College 2107
United States Military Academy 2104
Bowdoin College 2095
United States Merchant Marine Academy 2095
United States Naval Academy 2069
Pomona College 2043
Smith College 1968
United States Coast Guard Academy 1962

Social Mobility Index (SMI) rankings[edit]

The SMI rankings are a collaborative publication from CollegeNet and PayScale. The rankings aim to provide a measure of the extent to which colleges provide upward economic mobility to those that attend. The rankings were created in response to the finding in Science magazine which showed that among developed nations, the United States now provides the least economic opportunity and mobility for its citizens. The rankings were also created to combat the rising costs of tuition, much of which is attributed to the efforts of some colleges to increase their own fame and wealth in ways that increase their rank in media periodicals that put an emphasis on such measures. In 2014, according to the SMI, the top five colleges are Montana Tech, Rowan University, Florida A&M, Cal Poly Pomona, and Cal State Northridge.[24]

The Top American Research Universities[edit]

The Center for Measuring University Performance has ranked American research universities in the Top American Research Universities since 2000. The methodology is based on data such as research publications, citations, recognitions and funding, as well as undergraduate quality such as SAT scores. The information used can be found in publicly accessible materials, reducing possibilities for manipulation. The methodology is generally consistent from year to year and changes are explained in the publication along with references from other studies.[25]

TrendTopper MediaBuzz College Guide[edit]

TrendTopper MediaBuzz College Guide is an American-college guide based on what it calls "Internet brand equity" based on data collected from the Internet and global media sources. It ranks the Top 300 United States colleges and universities. The guide includes specialty and for profit schools including Art, Business, Design, Music, and Online Education. The TrendTopper MediaBuzz College Rankings are produced twice a year by the Global Language Monitor of Austin, Texas.[citation needed]

Time Magazine described internet brand equity as "a measure of who's talking about you online, based on Internet data, social media, blogs and the top 75,000 print and electronic media outlets.[26][27]

GLM ranks the schools "according to their online presence -- or internet brand equity ... By focusing on online presence, the Monitor hopes to avoid the biases that characterize other rankings, which commonly rely on the opinions of university officials and college counselors rather than that of the greater public.[28]" GLM believes the rankings provide an up-to-date perspective on which schools have the most popular brand. The resulting rankings gauge the relative value of the various institutions and how they change over time.

The Global Language Monitor publishes other lists relating to the English language including: the TrendTopper MediaBuzz College Guide rankings of the top 425 U.S. colleges and universities according to their internet brand equity.[29]

Top Universities (January 2016): Rank/University (Previous Ranking)

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1)
  2. University of California at Los Angeles (6)
  3. University of California, Berkeley (3)
  4. University of California, Davis (7)
  5. University of California, San Diego (12)
  6. University of Chicago (4)
  7. University of Texas, Austin (5)
  8. Harvard University (2)
  9. University of Washington (13)
  10. University of Southern California (27)
  11. Stanford University (8)
  12. University of Wisconsin, Madison (15)
  13. Yale University (21)
  14. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (16)
  15. University of California, Irvine (37)
  16. University of Virginia (19)
  17. University of California, Santa Barbara (36)
  18. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (20)
  19. University of Minnesota (22)
  20. Ohio State University, Columbus (28)

Top Colleges (January 2016): Rank/College (Previous Ranking)

  1. University of Richmond (2)
  2. Wesleyan University (54)
  3. School of the Art Institute of Chicago (27)
  4. College of the Holy Cross (58)
  5. Williams College (6)
  6. United States Military Academy (1)
  7. Smith College (47)
  8. United States Naval Academy (20)
  9. Middlebury College (7)
  10. Pratt Institute (10)
  11. Wellesley College (4)
  12. University of the Arts, PA (69)
  13. Berklee College of Music (72)
  14. Babson College (9)
  15. Oberlin College (19)
  16. Rhode Island School of Design (22)
  17. Bucknell University (11)
  18. Vassar College (8)
  19. Barnard College (21)
  20. Colgate University (14)

Top US Colleges by Category[edit]

  • The 222 Top US Universities 1. MIT, 2. UCLA, 3. Berkeley
  • The 199 Top US Colleges 1. Wesleyan (CT), 2. SAIC, 3. Holy Cross
  • The Top US Private Universities 1. Chicago, 2. Harvard, 3. Stanford
  • The Top US Public Universities 1. Berkeley, 2. UCLA / University of Virginia
  • The Top US Private Colleges 1. Wesleyan (CT), 2. SAIC, 3. Holy Cross
  • The Top US Public Colleges 1. West Point, 2. Annapolis, 3. Air Force
  • The Top Engineering Universities 1. MIT, 2. Virginia Tech, 3. Georgia Tech
  • The Top Engineering Colleges 1. Harvey Mudd, 2. MSOE, 3. SD School of Mines
  • The Top Catholic Universities 1. U San Diego, 2. Boston College, 3. Notre Dame.
  • The Top Catholic Colleges 1. Holy Cross, 2. Siena College, 3. Willamette
  • Top Denomination-related Colleges 1. St Olaf, 2. High Point, 3. Muhlenberg
  • Top Military and Service Academies 1. West Point, 2. Annapolis, 3. Air Force
  • Top Art, Design, and Music Schools 1. School of the Art Institute AIC, 2. Pratt Institute, 3. University of the Arts (Philadelphia)
  • Top Women's Colleges 1. Smith, 2. Wellesley, 3. Barnard
  • Top Historically Black Colleges and Universities 1. Morehouse, 2. Spelman, 3. Rhodes

UniversityBenchmarks Academic Rankings[edit]

The UniversityBenchmarks.com academic rankings focus on published public statistics for standardized scores, grade inflation, population, dropout rate, research funding and faculty recognition. These factors are normalized for the university student undergraduate population using standard statistical practices. From this data the difficulty of the curriculum, intelligence, competitiveness, faculty recognition and research prowess are determined. The universities are ranked by these individual categories. The relative overall rank of the student population and academic quality of the university is derived from the average of the rankings.[30]

University Academic Ranking
California Institute of Technology 1
Harvard University 2
Princeton University 3
Yale University 4
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 5
Georgia Institute of Technology 6
Columbia University 7
Washington University, St Louis 8
Stanford University 9
University of Chicago 10
Public University Academic Ranking
Georgia Institute of Technology 1
University of Michigan 2
University of California, Berkeley 2
University of Illinois 4
University of California, San Diego 5
University of California, Los Angeles 6
University of Minnesota 7
University of Wisconsin 8
University of Virginia 9
University of North Carolina 10

University Entrepreneur Report[edit]

The University Entrepreneur Report lists the top six American universities in terms of venture capital investments in businesses started by a university's alumni. According to a CB Insights study of deals from 2007-2011, Stanford alumni secured 203 venture capital or angel investments, totaling $4.1 billion, more than any other university studied. Harvard was second with 112 deals, totaling $3.8 billion. Excluding the Facebook deal, Harvard alumni secured $1.8 billion, less than half of Stanford's total. UC Berkeley, NYU, UPenn and MIT each brought in over $1.0 billion.[31]

University Total value of venture capital
or angel investments
from 2007 to 2011 in billions USD
Number of venture capital
or angel investment deals
from 2007 to 2011
Stanford University 4.1 203
Harvard University 3.8 112
University of California, Berkeley 1.3 90
New York University 1.2 48
University of Pennsylvania 1.2 46

U.S. News & World Report College and University rankings[edit]

The magazine U.S. News & World Report's rankings are based upon information they collect from educational institutions via an annual survey and school websites. It also considers opinion surveys of university faculty and administrators outside the school.[32] Their college rankings were first published in 1983 and have been published in all years thereafter, except 1984.

The US News listings have gained such influence that some Universities have made it a specific goal to reach a particular level in the US News rankings.[33] Belmont University president Bob Fisher stated in 2010, "Rising to the Top 5 in U.S. News represents a key element of Belmont's Vision 2015 plan."[34] Clemson University made it a public goal to rise to the Top 20 in the US News rankings, and made specific changes, including reducing class size and altering the presentation of teacher salaries, so as to perform better in the statistical analysis by US News.[35] At least one university, Arizona State, has actually tied the university president's pay to an increase in the school's placement in the US News rankings.[36]

The following are elements in the 2017 U.S. News rankings of national universities and liberal arts colleges.

  • Retention: six-year graduation rate and first-year student retention rate (22.5%)
  • Peer assessment: a survey of the institution's academic reputation among presidents, provosts, and admissions deans of other institutions (15%)
  • Guidance Counselor assessment: a survey of the institution's reputation among approximately 1,800 high school guidance counselors (7.5%)
  • Faculty resources: class size, average faculty salary adjusted for cost of living, student-faculty ratio, proportion of faculty with terminal degrees, proportion of full-time faculty (20%)
  • Student selectivity: standardized test scores of admitted students, proportion of admitted students in upper percentiles of their high school class, and proportion of applicants accepted (12.5%)
  • Financial resources: per-student spending on academic support, institutional support, public service, research and student services. (10%)
  • Graduation rate performance: comparison between actual six-year graduation rate and a predicted rate that is determined by entering class and school characteristics. (7.5%)
  • Alumni giving rate (5%)

U.S. News determined the relative weights of these factors and changed them over time. The National Opinion Research Center reviewed the methodology and stated that the weights "lack any defensible empirical or theoretical basis". The first four of the listed factors account for the great majority of the U.S. News ranking (80%, according to U.S. News's 2005 methodology), and the "reputational measure" (which surveys high-level administrators at similar institutions about their perceived quality ranking of each college and university) is especially important to the final ranking (accounting by itself for 25% of the ranking according to the 2005 methodology).[37]

A New York Times article reported that, given the U.S. News weighting methodology, "it's easy to guess who's going to end up on top: the Big Three, Harvard, Yale and Princeton round out the first three essentially every year. When asked how he knew his system was sound, Mel Elfin, the rankings' founder, often answered that he knew it because those three schools always landed on top. When a new lead statistician, Amy Graham, changed the formula in 1999 to one she considered more statistically valid, the California Institute of Technology jumped to first place. Ms. Graham soon left, and a modified system pushed Princeton back to No. 1 the next year."[38]

A 2010 study by the University of Michigan found that university rankings in the United States significantly affect institutions' applications and admissions.[39] The research analyzed the effects of the U.S. News & World Report rankings, showing a lasting effect on college applications and admissions by students in the top 10% of their class.[39] In addition, they found that rankings influence survey assessments of reputation by college presidents at peer institutions, such that rankings and reputation are becoming much more similar over time.[40]

A 2014 study published in Research in Higher Education removed the mystique of the U.S. News ranking process by producing a ranking model that faithfully recreated U.S. News outcomes and quantified the inherent "noise" in the rankings for all nationally ranked universities. The model developed provided detailed insight into the U.S. News ranking process. It allowed the impact of changes to U.S. News subfactors to be studied when variation between universities and within subfactors was present. Numerous simulations were run using this model to understand the amount of change required for a university to improve its rank or move into the top 20. Results show that for a university ranked in the mid-30s it would take a significant amount of additional resources, directed in a very focused way, to become a top-ranked national university, and that rank changes of up to +/- 4 points should be considered "noise".[41]

Top national universities[42] Rank Top liberal arts colleges Rank
Princeton University 1 Williams College 1
Harvard University 2 Amherst College 2
Columbia University 3 Swarthmore College 3
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 3 Wellesley College 3
University of Chicago 3 Bowdoin College 5
Yale University 3 Carleton College 5
Stanford University 7 Middlebury College 5
Duke University 8 Pomona College 5
University of Pennsylvania 8 Claremont McKenna College 9
Johns Hopkins University 10 Davidson College 10
Northwestern University 10 Grinnell College 11
California Institute of Technology 12 Haverford College 11
Dartmouth College 12 Smith College 11
Brown University 14 Vassar College 11
Vanderbilt University 14 Washington and Lee University 11
Cornell University 16 Colgate University 16
Rice University 16 Hamilton College 16
University of Notre Dame 18 Colby College 18

The Wall Street Journal / Times Higher Education College Rankings[edit]

The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education in late 2016 released their inaugural 2017 ranking of U.S. colleges and universities. It is a ranking of US colleges and universities that puts student success and learning—based on 100,000 current student voices—at its heart. The ranking includes clear performance indicators designed to answer the questions that matter the most to students and their families when making one of the most important decisions of their lives – who to trust with their education: Does the college have sufficient resources to teach me properly? Will I be engaged, and challenged, by my teacher and classmates? Does the college have a good academic reputation? What type of campus community is there? How likely am I to graduate, pay off my loans and get a good job? The ranking includes the results of the US Student Survey, which examines a range of key issues including students' engagement with their studies, their interaction with their teachers and their satisfaction with their experience. The rankings adopt a balanced scorecard approach, with 15 individual performance indicators combining to create an overall score that reflects the broad strength of the institution.[43]

Stanford topped the inaugural 2017 ranking, with MIT and Columbia taking the second and third spot.[44] The 2018 ranking is listed below:[45]

University Rank
Harvard University 1
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 2
Yale 3
University of Pennsylvania 4
California Institute of Technology 5 tied
Princeton University 5 tied
Brown University 7 tied
Stanford University 7 tied
Cornell University 9
Duke University 10

Washington Monthly national universities rankings[edit]

The Washington Monthly's "National Universities Rankings", most recently published in 2016, began as a research report in 2005, with rankings appearing in the September 2006 issue.[46] It ranks colleges on academic quality, faculty, and alumni outcome. It also offers American university and college rankings based upon "contribution to the public good in numerous categories.

The following are elements in the Washington Monthly rankings.

  • Academic quality: a survey of the institution's academic structure, and general program
  • Retention: first year retention rate, and graduation rate of the institutions
  • Faculty resources: average class size, faculty degree level, student-faculty ratio, and proportion of full-time faculty
  • Social Mobility: recruiting and graduating low-income students
  • Research: producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs
  • Service: encouraging students to give something back to their country

Their top national universities are:[47]

Top national universities[47] Rank Top liberal arts college[48] Rank
Stanford University  1 Berea College 1
Harvard University 2 Harvey Mudd College 2
MIT 3 Amherst College  3
University of California, San Diego  4 Williams College 4
University of Pennsylvania 5 Haverford College 5
Texas A&M  6 Bryn Mawr College 6
University of California, Berkeley  7 Washington and Lee University 7
University of California, Los Angeles  8 Pomona College 8
Georgetown University 9 Colgate University 9
University of California, Davis 10 Swarthmore College 10

"What will they Learn?" Report - American Council of Trustees and Alumni[edit]

In 2009, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) began grading colleges and universities based on the strength of their general education requirements. In ACTA's annual What Will They Learn? report, colleges and universities are assigned a letter grade from "A" to "F" based on how many of seven subjects are required of students. The seven subjects are composition, mathematics, foreign language, science, economics, literature and American government or history.[49] The 2011-2012 edition of What Will They Learn? graded 1,007 institutions.[50] In the 2011-2012 edition, 19 schools received an "A" grade for requiring at least six of the subjects the study evaluated.[51] ACTA's rating system has been endorsed by Mel Elfin, founding editor of U.S. News & World Report's rankings.[52] New York Times higher education blogger Stanley Fish, while agreeing that universities ought to have a strong core curriculum, disagreed with some of the subjects ACTA includes in the core.[53]

Other rankings[edit]

Other rankings include the Fiske Guide to Colleges and College Prowler, now called Niche (see above). Many specialized rankings are available in guidebooks, considering individual student interests, fields of study, geographical location, financial aid and affordability. In addition to best overall colleges ranking shown above, Niche also publishes dozens of specialized rankings such as Best Academics, Best Campus Food, Most Conservative Colleges, and Best Technology.

Among the rankings dealing with individual fields of study is the Philosophical Gourmet Report or "Leiter Report",[54] a ranking of philosophy departments. This report has attracted criticism from different viewpoints. Notably, practitioners of continental philosophy, who perceive the Leiter report as unfair to their field, have compiled alternative rankings.

The Gourman Report, last published in 1996, ranked the quality of undergraduate majors and graduate programs.

The Higher Education Rankings, developed and managed by the New York City consulting company IV Research, is a commercial product that provides both general rankings as well as personalized rankings based on a complicated assessment of 6 criteria and 30 indicators.[55]

Gallup polls ask American adults, "All in all, what would you say is the best college or university in the United States?"[56]

Global Language Monitor produces a "TrendTopper MediaBuzz" ranking of the Top 300 United States colleges and universities semi-annually.[57] It publishes overall results for both university and college categories. It uses the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching's classifications to distinguish between universities and liberal arts colleges. The rankings list 125 universities, 100 colleges, the change in the rankings over time, a "Predictive Quantities Indicator" (PQI) Index number (for relative rankings), rankings by Momentum (yearly and 90-day snapshots), and rankings by State. The most recent ranking appeared on November 1, 2009, covering 2008. The PQI index is produced by Global Language Monitor's proprietary PQI algorithm,[58] which has been criticized by some linguists for its use in a counting of the total number of English words.[59][60][61][62] The Global Language Monitor also sells the TrendTopper MediaBuzz Reputation Management solution for higher education for which "colleges and universities can enhance their standings among peers".[63] The Global Language Monitor states that it "does not influence the Higher Education rankings in any way".[64]

The Princeton Review, annually publishes a book of Best Colleges. In 2011, this was titled The Best 373 Colleges. Phi Beta Kappa has also sought to establish chapters at the best schools, lately numbering 280.[65]

In terms of collegiate sports programs, the annual NACDA Directors' Cup provides a measure of all-around collegiate athletic team achievement. Stanford has won the Division I Directors' cup for the last 22 years in a row.[66]

A 2017 publication (Chetty, Friedman, Saez, Turner, and Yagan (2017) “Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility”, from The Equality of Opportunity Project) investigated the role of US universities in promoting social mobility. The New York Times used their data to create a searchable database that provides data on college and university student bodies, with particular attention to the wealth of the families of students. In the resulting article, they indicated that 38 schools in the US had more students from the top 1% of US family income than the bottom 60% of US family income. It is possible to visit this website and search for US colleges and universities, and get more information about the wealth and social mobility of their students.[67] The 38 schools identified in this study are as follows, with the percentage of students in each category listed:

Students from ... The top 1%


Bottom 60%


1. Washington University in St. Louis 21.7 6.1
2. Colorado College 24.2 10.5
3. Washington and Lee University 19.1 8.4
4. Colby College 20.4 11.1
5. Trinity College (Conn.) 26.2 14.3
6. Bucknell University 20.4 12.2
7. Colgate University 22.6 13.6
8. Kenyon College 19.8 12.2
9. Middlebury College 22.8 14.2
10. Tufts University 18.6 11.8
11. Lafayette College 17.0 10.9
12. Georgetown University 20.8 13.5
13. Notre Dame 15.4 10.0
14. Vanderbilt University 22.8 14.9
15. Elon University 14.0 9.2
16. Dartmouth College 20.7 14.4
17. Bates College 18.3 12.9
18. Hamilton College 19.6 13.8
19. Claremont McKenna College 19.6 15.2
20. Wake Forest University 21.7 17.0
21. Princeton University 17.0 13.6
22. Connecticut College 18.0 14.8
23. Southern Methodist U. 22.9 18.9
24 Villanova 15.0 12.4
25. Bowdoin College 20.4 17.5
26. Duke University 19.2 16.5
27. Yale University 18.7 16.3
28. Pitzer College 20.1 17.6
29. University of Pennsylvania 18.7 16.5
30. Brown University 19.5 18.2
31. Franklin & Marshall College 17.5 16.4
32. Boston College 16.1 15.2
33. Davidson College 17.4 16.4
34. Furman University 16.2 15.5
35. Texas Christian U. 16.3 16.0
36. Dickinson College 13.3 13.2
37, Muhlenberg College 10.9 10.8
38. Skidmore College 15.0 15.0


American college and university ranking systems have drawn criticism from within and outside higher education in Canada and the United States. Institutions that have objected include Reed College, Alma College, Mount Holyoke College, St. John's College, Earlham College, MIT, Stanford University, University of Western Ontario, and Queen's University.

Critics charged that U.S. News intentionally changed its methodology every year so that the rankings change and they can sell more magazines. A San Francisco Chronicle article argues that "almost all of US News factors are redundant and can be boiled down to one characteristic: the size of the college or university's endowment."[68]

Some higher education experts, like Kevin Carey of Education Sector, have argued that U.S. News & World Report's college rankings system is merely a list of criteria that mirrors the superficial characteristics of elite colleges and universities. According to Carey, "[The] U.S. News ranking system is deeply flawed. Instead of focusing on the fundamental issues of how well colleges and universities educate their students and how well they prepare them to be successful after college, the magazine's rankings are almost entirely a function of three factors: fame, wealth, and exclusivity." He suggested more important characteristics are how well students are learning and how likely students are to earn a degree.[69]

2007 movement[edit]

On 19 June 2007, during the annual meeting of the Annapolis Group, members discussed a letter to college presidents asking them not to participate in the "reputation survey" section of the U.S. News survey (this section comprises 25% of the ranking). As a result, "a majority of the approximately 80 presidents at the meeting said that they did not intend to participate in the U.S. News reputational rankings in the future."[70] However, the decision to fill out the reputational survey was left to each individual college.[71] The statement stated that its members "have agreed to participate in the development of an alternative common format that presents information about their colleges for students and their families to use in the college search process."[71] This database was outlined and developed in conjunction with higher education organizations including theNational Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the Council of Independent Colleges.

U.S. News & World Report editor Robert Morse issued a response on 22 June 2007, stating:

"in terms of the peer assessment survey, we at U.S. News firmly believe the survey has significant value because it allows us to measure the "intangibles" of a college that we can't measure through statistical data. Plus, the reputation of a school can help get that all-important first job and plays a key part in which grad school someone will be able to get into. The peer survey is by nature subjective, but the technique of asking industry leaders to rate their competitors is a commonly accepted practice. The results from the peer survey also can act to level the playing field between private and public colleges."[72]

In reference to the alternative database discussed by the Annapolis Group, Morse argued:

"It's important to point out that the Annapolis Group's stated goal of presenting college data in a common format has been tried before ... U.S. News has been supplying this exact college information for many years already. And it appears that NAICU will be doing it with significantly less comparability and functionality.U.S. News first collects all these data (using an agreed-upon set of definitions from the Common Data Set). Then we post the data on our website in easily accessible, comparable tables. In other words, the Annapolis Group and the others in the NAICU initiative actually are following the lead of U.S. News."[72]

In 1996, according to Gerhard Casper, then-president of Stanford University, U.S. News & World Report changed its formula to calculated financial resources:

Knowing that universities—and, in most cases, the statistics they submit—change little from one year to the next, I can only conclude that what are changing are the formulas the magazine's number massagers employ. And, indeed, there is marked evidence of that this year. In the category "Faculty resources," even though few of us had significant changes in our faculty or student numbers, our class sizes, or our finances, the rankings' producers created a mad scramble in rank order [... data ...]. Then there is "Financial resources," where Stanford dropped from #6 to #9, Harvard from #5 to #7. Our resources did not fall; did other institutions' rise so sharply? I infer that, in each case, the formulas were simply changed, with notification to no one, not even your readers, who are left to assume that some schools have suddenly soared, others precipitously plummeted.[73]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]