Princeton University, Williams College Again Top US News 2022-23 Best College Rankings

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Princeton University is the top-ranked national university and Williams College is the top liberal arts college in the nation, according to the just released US news and world report Best colleges for 2022-23. Princeton and Williams also took the top spots in their respective categories last year American news‘ ranking.

This is the ranking’s 38th year, attesting to its uniquely high position in the ever-expanding number of university ranking systems.

This year, American news ranked a total of 1,500 colleges in various institutional categories, based on 17 differentially weighted metrics. Here are the five top-ranked schools in several major categories, defined by mission or specific results. (About 10% of schools changed ranking category this year due to updates to the Carnegie ranking of higher education institutions, which American news used to categorize schools.)

Best National Universities

National universities offer a full range of undergraduate majors in addition to master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees. Many also emphasize research. The top five were:

  1. Princeton University
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  3. Harvard University, Stanford University, Yale University (bound)

This is the twelfth consecutive year that Princeton has topped the list of national universities. The rest of the top 20 are very similar to last year’s rankings, with one notable exception. Columbia University, which was initially tied for second but was later dropped from the rankings over questions about the accuracy of the data, was ranked 18th this year, tied with Notre Dame University.

Only two public institutions were among the top 20 national universities – the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, Los Angeles. Last year, UCLA was the only public university to make the top 20. All eight schools in the Ivy League made the top 20.

Among the universities in the top 100, American news selected two big movers from last year’s rankings – the University of California, Santa Cruz jumped 20 places from a draw at No. 103 to a draw at No. 83; and Brigham Young University dropped 10 places from a tie at number 79 to a tie at number 89. In the top 50, the University of Illinois rose six places, from 47th to tied at 41st place.

Best National Colleges of Liberal Arts

These colleges emphasize undergraduate education and award at least 50% of their degrees in areas such as languages ​​and literature, biology and life sciences, philosophy, cultural studies, and psychology. The top five were:

1. Williams College

2. Amherst College

3. Pomona College

4. Swarthmore College

5. Wellesley College

The top five remained unchanged from 2022, except Pomona moved up one place and Swarthmore fell one place. Of the top 20 national liberal arts colleges, only three were public institutions, all of them U.S. military service academies — the United States Military Academy at West Point, the United States Naval Academy, and the United States Air Force Academy.

Best Public Universities

The University of California Berkeley and the University of California, Los Angeles came in first among public universities, followed by the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia (in third place) and the University of Florida and the University of North Carolina on Chapel Hill (tied for 5th).

Six of the University of California’s campuses made the top 20, as did seven institutions in the Big Ten Conference.

Top performers in social mobility

American news assesses this category based on the success of institutions at the graduation of a large proportion of the students who receive Pell Grants. The top five national universities goods:

1. Imperial University (FL)

2. University of California, Riverside

3. California State University – Long Beach

4. International University of Florida

5 University of California, Merced

The top five national liberal arts academys for social mobility were:

1. Salem College (NC)

2. Lake Forest College (IL)

3. Tougaloo College (MS)

4. University of Puerto Rico – Cayay

5. Spelman College

Best Historically Black Colleges and Universities

The top five HBCUs were:

1. Spelman College

2. Howard University

3. Tuskegee University

4. Morehouse College

5. Xavier University of Louisiana

Other categories

American news ranks colleges in several other categories, including the best colleges and universities by regionthe most innovative schoolsthe best colleges for veteransand the best schools, which “weighs the academic quality of a university against the net cost of attendance for a student who received the average level of need-based financial aid.”

Methodology

The ranking variables for 2022 and their weights for the national universities (some weights are slightly different for other institutional types) are as follows:

Results (40%). Graduation and retention rates, social mobility (the enrollment of Pell Grant students and their graduation at a rate close to the percentage of non-Pell students), and two measures of student debt.

Faculty resources (20%). Class size, student:faculty ratio, average faculty salary, percentages of faculty that are full-time and have completed final degrees in their field.

Expert opinion (20%). Reputation assessments where presidents, provosts and admissions deans give their views on other schools.

Financial resources (10%). Expenditure per student on academics, such as education, student facilities and research.

Student excellence (7%). ACT/SAT scores, high school class standing.

Giving alumni (3%). The percentage of bachelor’s graduates who donate to their institution in a given year.

While American news reviewing its methodology regularly, there have been few changes this year in the 17 measures or the weights assigned to them. Two revisions deserve mention.

  • Institutions “where a minority of entrants submitted SAT/ACT scores in consecutive years – including “test-blind” schools – were reassigned the 5% weight of those scores in the ranking formula to other ranking factors. For schools where only their most recent (Fall 2021) incoming class had a minority who – often in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – used their Fall 2020 scores instead.”
  • The percentage of education faculties with a final diploma now also includes the share of part-time faculties with a final diploma. Previously, this statistic only concerned full-time teachers.

While this latest treatment of standardized test scores won’t please critics who’ve insisted it American news to end the use of SAT and ACT scores in the rankings, it’s still an improvement from last year when “test-blind” schools, for which no data on SAT and ACT scores were available, were given some sort of penalty – they were randomly assigned a value on this indicator that was equal to the lowest average test score of schools in the same rank.

With more than 1,800 four-year colleges and universities not requiring standardized admissions tests by 2023, their days are like a American news ranking factor can be numbered. And in fact, a statement to the reviews this year suggested a change could be coming – commenting on the role of standardized testing in its methodology, American news said it “will not commit to its approach to next edition’s rankings.”

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Described by Colin Diver in Breaking Ranks as the 800-pound gorilla of college rankings, American news started a new industry nearly 40 years ago that now encompasses more than a dozen national ranking systems, each using a methodology that differs moderately or substantially from American news. A major emphasis of these other rankings has been to put more emphasis on outcomes — such as graduation rates, social mobility, career success, and social contributions — rather than inputs and subjective opinions, for which American news has often and rightly been criticized.

While critics will still find a lot to dislike some American news’ indicators – reputation score and alumni giving are two obvious examples – it’s important to recognize that its methodology has improved significantly over the years. The “results” category now accounts for 40% of the overall ranking; social mobility by the lower-income students of a university of applied sciences is given more weight; student indebtedness is now considered while applicant rejection rates are not; and standardized test scores — a favorite target of many observers — may be on its last legs.

Are college rankings problematic? In a word, yes. They probably attract more attention than they should. Some of them perpetuate a university hierarchy that is over-determined by institutional wealth. And they dangle incentives that can lead to institutional mischief and misplaced priorities.

However, they are also a fact of American life for an audience that wants current information about its higher education choices. Rankings do not and should not determine the value of a university to a specific student, but they can help students and their families learn about their college options. And that’s why – like it or not – they don’t go away.