According to the report, for the ninth straight year, the Best National University is Princeton in New Jersey. Harvard comes in second, followed by Columbia, MIT, and Yale, all tied for third. The Best National Liberal Arts College is Williams College, followed by Amherst College, both in Massachusetts. UCLA was ranked the Top Public School. U.S. News put together other rankings including Most Innovative, Best Value Schools, and Best Regional Colleges.
To create the 2020 lists, U.S. News gathered data from each college. What they chose to ask about and how much they valued the response reflects the judgment of U.S. News. Based on the total score they received, schools were ranked against the other schools in their category.
The measures used to score the colleges and how much weight they were giving in the ranking formula, are below.
Graduation and retention rates (35%): Colleges scored top points for having the most students who returned to campus for sophomore year and graduating students within six years. This may be the most important indicator as it shows the students selected were a good fit and that the school offers the services and classes that students need to succeed.
Faculty resources (20%): Class size is the highest weighted measure within this category at 8%. The assumption is that in smaller classes, students have more contact with their professors, and the more likely they will learn. Faculty salary counts as 7%, the proportion of professors with the highest degrees in their field counts 3%, the student-faculty ratio is 1% and the proportion of faculty who are full time is 1%.
Expert opinion (20%): Top academics including presidents, provosts, and deans of admission rated the academic quality of peer institutions with which they are familiar on a scale of 1 to 5. More than 2,000 academics responded.
Financial resources (10%): This counts per-student spending, meaning the average spending per student on instruction, research, student services, and related educational expenditures. Sports, dorms or hospital spending did not count.
Student excellence (10%): This score includes standardized tests and high school class standing. The admissions test scores for all enrollees who took the math and evidence-based reading and writing portions of the SAT and the composite ACT is weighted at 7.75%. The proportion of freshmen who graduated in the top 10% of their classes counts for 2.25% of the score.
Alumni giving rate (5%): This reflects the average percentage of living alumni with bachelor’s degrees who gave to their school during 2016-2018. This may measure satisfaction and post-graduate engagement.
NOTE FROM INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE COUNSELORS: All in all, these kinds of rankings aren’t too valuable. The best college for one student is not necessarily the best college for another. Plus, the data being used for these rankings does not result in the most accurate lists.