This new college ranking includes a social mobility category.

Top college ranking now looks at social mobility

U.S. News & World Report's 35th annual college ranking includes new updates to categories

U.S. News & World Report just released its annual college ranking, and for the first time it includes a category focused on social mobility, which highlights institutions that best serve underrepresented students.

According to the 2020 U.S. News Best Colleges. Princeton University remains No. 1 among national universities, while Williams College is once again in the top spot among national liberal arts colleges.

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This year, public schools in California, Florida and New York excel in enrolling and graduating large proportions of low-income students. The University of California—Los Angeles maintains its spot as the No. 1 Top Public School among National Universities.

The new social mobility ranking evaluates which schools best serve underrepresented students. Using Pell Grants as a proxy measure, the ranking looks at enrollment and graduation rates of low-income students. Schools in the University of California system, including Riverside, Santa Cruz and Irvine, all succeed in this area. Tied for No. 4 on the list are the University of La Verne in California, Howard University in the District of Columbia and Rutgers University—Newark in New Jersey. Also ranked highly for social mobility are New York public schools like SUNY—Albany and SUNY—Buffalo, as well as Florida public schools like the University of Florida and the University of South Florida.

U.S. News published eight new rankings of schools with programs such as Study Abroad (Elon University in North Carolina is No. 1), First-Year Experiences (Agnes Scott College in Georgia is No. 1), Co-ops/Internships (Northeastern University in Massachusetts is No. 1) and more. Previously, these were alphabetical lists.

The ranking also factors first-generation college students into the overall methodology. This variable is included in the graduation rate performance metric, giving schools more credit for supporting first-generation students through graduation.

This year also features updates to the ranking categories, establishing new playing fields for schools. About 13 percent of ranked schools moved into different categories this year. For example, a university ranked previously as a Regional University may now be a National University. That is because of the “2018 update” from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, which U.S. News has used since the first Best Colleges rankings in 1983 to compare schools with similar missions.

“For more than three decades, we’ve collected and analyzed data on thousands of colleges and universities across the country and helped put schools on the map,” said Kim Castro, editor and chief content officer of U.S. News, in a statement. “We’ve found the best institutions to be ones committed to academically and financially supporting their students through graduation. They draw in high-quality professors and set students up for postgraduate success.”

U.S. News ranked nearly 1,400 colleges and universities for the 35th edition of the rankings. The mission has always been to broaden education options for students, and in that, U.S. News has succeeded.

Nearly 90 percent of visitors coming to Best Colleges on are looking at schools outside the top 10 National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges.

To calculate the top schools, U.S. News focuses on academic quality and places emphasis on outcome measures – including graduation rates, retention rates and social mobility. Outcomes are the mostly highly weighted ranking factor, contributing 35% to each school’s overall score.

National Universities – Top 3
1. Princeton University (NJ)
2. Harvard University (MA)
3. Columbia University (NY) (tie)
3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (tie)
3. Yale University (CT) (tie)

National Liberal Arts Colleges – Top 3
1. Williams College (MA)
2. Amherst College (MA)
3. Swarthmore College (PA) (tie)
3. Wellesley College (MA) (tie)

Top Public Schools

National Universities – Top 3
1. University of California—Los Angeles
2. University of California—Berkeley
3. University of Michigan—Ann Arbor

National Liberal Arts Colleges – Top 3
1. United States Naval Academy (MD)
2. United States Military Academy (NY)
3. United States Air Force Academy (CO)

Top Performers on Social Mobility

National Universities – Top 3
1. University of California—Riverside
2. University of California—Santa Cruz
3. University of California—Irvine

National Liberal Arts Colleges – Top 3
1. Cornell College (IA)
2. Agnes Scott College (GA)
3. Houghton College (NY)

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Laura Ascione

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