Eagerly anticipated since its inception in 1983, the 27th annual US News and World Report Best Colleges rankings were released today.
US News and World Report is a monthly news magazine published in Washington, DC. In June 2008 it switched from a weekly to a biweekly format and in November 2008 it became a monthly publication with greater emphasis placed on its website.
The magazine, which is often compared to competitors Time and Newsweek, places most of its focus on politics, the economy, health and education. It is well-known for its ranking system and annual reports on American colleges, graduate schools, and hospitals and in 2007 also began ranking high schools. Each year US News examines over 1400 accredited schools and publishes their results to serve as a research tool for prospective students and their parents.
The main categories of the 2011 Best Colleges are National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities and Regional Colleges. Best Colleges enthusiasts may notice that category names were changed this year to reduce confusion and make rankings more understandable.
In previous years, the Regional Universities category was “Universities—Masters” and “Regional Colleges” was “Baccalaureate Colleges.” “Liberal Arts Colleges” became “National Liberal Arts Colleges.”
Additionally, more schools were ranked for 2011 than in previous years. The display rank of the top seventy-five percent of schools in each category—referred to as the First Tier schools— is displayed, up from fifty percent. The schools in the bottom twenty-five percent of each group—called the Second Tier schools—are listed alphabetically.
The graduation rate performance of students is also more heavily weighted in 2011 as it was in the past.
US News calculates its college and university rankings from data collected from an annual survey sent to each school or from the school’s website. It also considers opinion surveys of university faculty and administrators that do not belong to the school. The methods of actually ranking the schools have changed several times since the report’s inception.
The US News Best Colleges ranking is probably the most-accepted, best known college and university rankings system in the country, but it is not without criticism. According to Inside Higher Ed, the Annapolis Group, an educational organization comprised of one hundred and thirty national independent liberal arts colleges, criticized the rankings system during its annual 2007 meeting. The group claimed that the majority of college presidents present at the meeting would not participate in the “reputation survey” section of the Best Colleges report and discussed starting their own ranking system.
It almost seems as if all college rankings anger schools unless they are placed at the top of a respectable category. Annual rankings by the Princeton Review include categories such as “Lots of Hard Liquor” and “Reefer Madness.”
In addition to the US News ranking system, we have a college rankings system available for your use right here at StateUniversity.com. You may enjoy searching schools by Highest Overall Score, by state, or by a variety of other categories.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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