UCLA and USC shared the 23rd place among best national universities, along with Carnegie Mellon and the
Officials at the magazine said their methodology this year somewhat shifted emphasis from the academic prowess of freshmen, measured by such things as high school class rankings, to how well they do in college by earning a degree. But those changes had little effect on rankings of the top 50 national universities because they score high in graduation rates. They also have large financial endowments and resources for faculty that are important in the rankings.
The top 10 schools were the same as last year, but with some slight changes in order. Princeton was first, followed by Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, the
The listing has been criticized over the years for giving too much credence to schools' wealth and selectivity in admissions. Yet because parents, students and school governing boards track it carefully, many colleges do everything they can to score high. Some schools have been accused of manipulating data.
Katy Murphy, who is president-elect of the National Assn. for College Admission Counseling and heads the counseling department at Bellarmine College Preparatory high school in San Jose, said many parents rely too heavily on magazine and other college rankings because they want "outside validation of quality." She urged families to look more deeply to find "what fits for them."
The methodology this year slightly reduced the points for how hard it is to gain admission and shifted those to measures of retaining and graduating students, according to Robert Morse, who heads the "Best Colleges" lists for U.S. News & World Report. Because fewer high schools are reporting students' class rankings, the magazine also cut the importance of that and increased the weight of incoming freshmen scores on SAT or ACT exams.
Schools below the top 50 in their category tended to be most affected, Morse said. Among them was Pitzer College in Claremont, which jumped from sharing the 43rd spot last year to 35th now in the list of national liberal arts schools. Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore, topped that list, followed by a tie among Pomona College in Claremont, Bowdoin and
Last year, a former admissions official at Claremont McKenna confessed to exaggerating statistics about admitted students. Before the hyping, Claremont McKenna had ranked ninth in the liberal arts category and held on to that spot even after an investigation and removal of the hyped data, and then it was 10th, tied with Vassar, in last September's overall listing.
The magazine’s changes echo a slice of what the
U.S. News’ move is “a small step in the right direction but not nearly enough,” said Clare McCann, an education analyst for the New America Foundation, a
As for the Los Angeles rivalry: before last year's tie, USC twice in a row had scored slightly higher than UCLA. That reversed a long-term pattern in which the Westwood school previously had bested USC.