Making a plan with your teen to go on college tours this school year? The U.S. News and World Report has released its Best College rankings of 2024, and this year, it’s focused on graduation rates, post-graduation success and graduating with manageable debt.
U.S. News said in a press release that this “greater emphasis on social mobility and outcomes for graduating college students” marks the largest change in methodology since the ranking was originally published 39 years ago.
Eric Brooks, principal data analyst for U.S. News’ education rankings, told WTOP that the new methodology tends to favor public schools that are less expensive, enroll students who receive federal aid through Pell Grants and students who are first in their households to attend college. It also rewards schools focused on degrees that are in greater demand in the job market, including math and science degrees.
He said some of the universities in the D.C. area that scored especially well on graduation rates and are “putting people in degrees and paths forward, that indicate the expense and time of going to college” were the University of Maryland, College Park and Virginia Tech.
The University of Maryland moved up to No. 46 from No. 55 last year. The Prince George’s County-based university also moved up seven places in the best value for schools ranking and 99 places for top performers in social mobility.
Virginia Tech is right behind, at No. 47, from No. 60 last year. Tech also improved its score for top performers in social mobility, moving up 130 places.
The University of Virginia is No. 24 in the overall universities ranking, improving its standing.
Georgetown stayed put at No. 22 in the overall universities ranking and is ranked No. 3 for International Business programs.
American University moved down to No. 105 in the overall universities ranking this year but is also ranked No. 2 for study abroad programs to look for, moving up four spots since last year.
Howard University is ranked No. 115 in the overall universities ranking and held on to its No. 2 spot for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Howard is also ranked No. 10 for undergraduate teaching programs.
George Mason University is tied with American at No. 105 in the overall universities ranking and is ranked at No. 72 for top performers on social mobility.
The United States Naval Academy, located in Annapolis, Maryland, also did well in the national liberal arts colleges ranking, ranking at No. 3 in the nation. Williams College is ranked No. 1 and Amherst College is No. 2 for national liberal arts colleges.
The top national universities are still Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ranking No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Harvard University tied with Stanford for the No. 3 spot.
Brooks said that the new rankings are “taking into account what matters most for students” as they face the “challenging” task of picking a college.
“It’s four years of a prospective student’s life. It costs a lot of money. There’s ramifications for the future,” Brooks said. “So we’re trying to help demystify that search by doing an evaluation of schools based on their academic data.”
He also said they dropped some factors this year, including class size, because they were “looking at statistics that were the most universally reported by schools and attainable to us by third-party sources.”
You can check out the full list of U.S. News’ Best College Rankings on the U.S. News website.
WTOP’s Cheyenne Corin contributed to this report.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify that Harvard University tied with Stanford for the No. 3 spot in the overall national rankings of top universities.
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