No two students are exactly the same when it comes to the college search. Some prioritize location, academic programs, low student-to-faculty ratios or a large sports presence, while others want a school with a strong emphasis on research and internships.
To help students find a school that fits their needs, U.S. News released its 2022-2023 Best Colleges rankings today. A total of 1,500 colleges and universities were ranked this year, with more than 1,850 schools reporting most of the data to U.S. News in an annual survey. Data was collected from schools in spring and summer of 2022, and ACT and SAT scores reflect testing periods from 2020 to 2021.
Like in last year’s edition, Princeton University in New Jersey and Williams College in Massachusetts took the top spots in their respective categories. There was quite a bit of year-to-year movement lower down the rankings list.
Since its inception in 1983, the rankings have evolved to add more schools and data points to help college-bound students make informed decisions.
U.S. News assesses colleges and universities based on 17 metrics of academic quality, with the most weight placed on outcome measures, such as graduation and retention rates and average graduate indebtedness. Average class size, undergraduate academic reputation and how much colleges invest in instruction and student services are among the other data points U.S. News collected to develop the latest set of rankings.
Schools are placed into ranking categories, including National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Colleges and Regional Universities. Regional colleges and universities are split into eight categories based on geographic location and whether master’s degrees are offered.
Changes to the Best Colleges Rankings
U.S. News did not modify the weights of existing indicators or add new ranking indicators for the 2022-2023 edition. There were still some changes to the methodology, however.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on testing in 2020, U.S. News did not use SAT/ACT scores to calculate a school’s rank if they reported scores for less than 50% of new entrants in consecutive years. The weights of two other ranking factors — average graduation rate and high school class standing — increased instead. In prior editions, SAT/ACT scores were reduced if not enough students submitted their scores.
Additionally, the percent of faculty with a terminal degree previously only considered full-time instructional faculty. But this year, part-time instructional faculty are also included because of their growing presence in classrooms.
Other changes to the rankings can be found here.
How Colleges Fared
Unchanged from the prior year, Princeton and Massachusetts Institute of Technology rank as No. 1 and No. 2 among National Universities — schools that are often research-oriented and offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.
The other schools in the top 10 also remain largely the same with some minor fluctuations. Yale University in Connecticut and Stanford University in California, for instance, moved up from their last year’s rank of No. 5 and No. 6, respectively, to tie with Harvard University in Massachusetts for a No. 3 spot. Harvard was previously tied at No. 2 with MIT.
The University of Chicago stayed at No. 6, while the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University in Maryland both moved slightly up in the rankings — from No. 8 and No. 9, respectively — to tie at No. 7. The California Institute of Technology once again lands in the No. 9 spot. Tied at No. 9 last year, Duke University in North Carolina and Northwestern University in Illinois moved slightly down to share the last spot in the top 10.
The top 50 National Universities resemble last year’s, with schools only moving up or down by fewer than five spots — except for Columbia University in New York and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Columbia now ranks at No. 18. It was unranked in last year’s edition given its failure to respond to multiple U.S. News requests to substantiate certain data. The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign moved up from No. 47 to a three-way tie at No. 41. Seventeen of the National Universities are located in the Northeast, while nine are in California.
Among the schools in the top 100, the University of California–Santa Cruz made the largest jump, moving up 20 spots from a tie at No. 103 to a tie at No. 83. Brigham Young University–Provo in Utah saw the biggest drop in the top 100, slipping 10 spots from a tie at No. 79 to a tie at No. 89.
Looking beyond the top 100 schools, there were more substantial shifts in the rankings: The University of Puerto Rico–Rio Piedras climbed 38 spots from a tie at No. 288 to a tie at No. 250. Meanwhile, the University of St. Francis in Illinois fell 50 spots, from a tie at No. 249 to a tie at No. 299. Three schools — Gannon University in Pennsylvania, New Mexico State University and the University of Nevada, Reno — dropped 36 spots, going from a tie at No. 227 to a tie with numerous other colleges at No. 263.
[Explore: See the 2022-2023 Best Liberal Arts Colleges]
The rankings of National Liberal Arts Colleges, schools that emphasize undergraduate education and award half or more of their degrees across liberal arts fields, also saw little movement at the very top. Williams and Amherst College, both in Massachusetts, retained the same spots as in the prior edition of the rankings: No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Switching places from last year, Pomona College in California took the No. 3 spot while Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania fell to No. 4.
Wellesley College in Massachusetts stayed at No. 5 while Bowdoin College in Maine and the United States Naval Academy in Maryland once again tied at No. 6, alongside Carleton College in Minnesota — which climbed three spots from the prior year.
A new entrant in the top 10 this year, the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York, rose two spots to No. 9, tying with Claremont McKenna College in California, which dipped slightly from its previous No. 8 ranking. Similar to National Universities, a large proportion of National Liberal Arts Colleges in the top 50 are in the Northeast.
Overall, the biggest move up the National Liberal Arts Colleges rankings came from Saint Vincent College in Pennsylvania, which climbed 26 spots from a tie at No. 146 to a tie at No. 120. The biggest drop was Millsaps College in Mississippi, which fell 22 spots from a tie at No. 114 to a tie at No. 136.
Not much changed among the top Regional Universities, schools that offer bachelor’s degrees, some master’s programs and limited options at the doctoral level. In the North, Providence College in Rhode Island solely claimed the No. 1 spot while Bentley University in Massachusetts is once again No. 2. Butler University in Indiana retained the No. 1 ranking in the Midwest and Rollins College in Florida again is No. 1 in the South. Climbing from a No. 3 spot in the prior year, the University of Portland in Oregon is now ranked No. 1 in the West.
Of the ranked Regional Colleges, schools that focus on undergraduate education but award fewer than half of their degrees in liberal arts fields, the United States Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut remains No. 1 in the North, as does High Point University in North Carolina in the South. Cottey College in Missouri rose in the Midwest rankings to claim the No. 1 spot, as did Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University–Prescott for the West.
About one in 10 schools switched ranking categories this year. That’s due to an update in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, which U.S. News uses to compare schools with similar missions. For example, Fairfield University in Connecticut, previously ranked No. 3 among Regional Universities in the South, is now a National University. It ties with five other schools for the No. 115 spot.
Additional College Rankings to Consider
Best Value Schools, for instance, weighs a college’s academic quality alongside the net cost of attendance for a student who received the average level of need-based financial aid. A reshuffling of the ranks finds Harvard at No. 1 among National Universities, up from No. 3 last year. Climbing up two spots, Princeton ranks No. 2 while Yale — last year’s No. 1 — is now at No. 3 for Best Value.
While these highly selective schools may appear expensive on paper, Harvard, for instance, offered need-based grants to 55% of students, bringing the average cost of attendance for those recipients down to $15,415 in 2021-2022, well below the sticker price of $57,261 that year.
Meanwhile, rankings for public colleges — operated and partially funded by state governments — changed slightly for the top three National Universities. The University of California–Los Angeles is still the No. 1 top public school in its category, but it’s now tied with the University of California, Berkeley, previously at No. 2. The University of Virginia climbed up one spot to tie at No. 3 with the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor, which retained the same rank as last year.
Unchanged from the previous edition, Loyola University Maryland ranks No. 1 among Best Colleges for Veterans in the Regional Universities North category, with the College of New Jersey in the No. 2 spot. Moving up from No. 4 in the rankings, SUNY Polytechnic Institute–Utica/Rome in New York is No. 3. These schools participate in federal initiatives that help veterans and active-duty service members pay for their degrees.
Families can use several U.S. News tools to search and compare colleges as well as explore a vast range of data available on school profile pages, including detailed information on tuition, application fees and deadlines, popular majors and financial aid.
College-bound students and their families can also compare postgraduate salary data collected by PayScale, which is displayed on many U.S. News school profile pages. Another U.S. News tool students can use is the free College Admissions Calculator.
Looking for full rankings information? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find all published data points, including student debt and employment statistics.
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The 2022-2023 Best Colleges Rankings Are Out: See Who’s on Top originally appeared on usnews.com