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Despite new ranking formula, few changes to list of best US colleges

The annual U.S. News and World Report rankings have faced criticism for their "outsized influence they may play with prospective students."
Despite new ranking formula, few changes to list of best US colleges
Posted at 7:46 AM, Sep 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-18 11:03:10-04

The U.S. News and World Report Best College Rankings have taken some criticism over the years for a variety of reasons. 

Some of the criticism was amplified in 2021 when a Temple University dean was convicted on federal charges of a scheme that provided U.S. News and World Report false information about the university's business school. Prosecutors said Moshe Porat provided false information to deceive students into paying for tuition and donors into making contributions. 

This year, Columbia University announced it would not submit data to U.S. News and World Report for its annual rankings. 

"We remain concerned with the role that rankings have assumed in the undergraduate application process, both in the outsized influence they may play with prospective students, and in how they distill a university’s profile into a composite of data categories," leaders of Columbia wrote in July.

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In response to the criticism, this year's rankings emphasized social mobility and outcomes for graduating college students, U.S. News and World Report said. The results, however, were largely unchanged. 

This year's top three best universities are largely unchanged from last year's.

Princeton remained the top university, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Both Harvard and Stanford remained tied for third. The only difference in the top three between this year and last year was Yale was also tied for third with Harvard and Stanford a year ago. 

Not much has changed among top public universities, either. The University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, Los Angeles remained tied for No. 1, while the University of Michigan stayed at No. 3. 

In San Diego County, UC San Diego placed 28th on the list; University of San Diego came in at 98th; and San Diego State University ranked 105th.

U.S. News and World Report did highlight that some universities saw huge jumps based on the new formula. The school with the largest jump in the rankings was Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, which gained 102 spots. 

SEE MORE: Do you know which colleges offer economic mobility?

“For 40 years, students and their families have come to count on Best Colleges as a vital resource as they navigate one of the most important decisions of their lives,” says Eric Gertler, executive chairman and CEO of U.S. News. “The significant changes in this year’s methodology are part of the ongoing evolution to make sure our rankings capture what is most important for students as they compare colleges and select the school that is right for them.”

The rankings include 1,500 universities throughout the U.S. using 19 different measures, including graduation rates, student retention, financial resources and peer assessment. 

Despite the criticism, a number of schools were promoting their ranking on Monday. 

"This accolade comes amid an extraordinary few years at Berkeley," the University of California, Berkeley said in a Monday press release.


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