As ‘U.S. News’ Changed Formula For Its College Rankings, New Names Make This Year’s List

University of California, Los Angeles
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U.S. News & World Report has revamped its college-ranking formula this year in an effort to add more emphasis on social mobility and less on exclusivity in admissions, which has scrambled its annual lists of top colleges and universities released Monday.

The new methodology is now set to reward schools that enroll and graduate more students from low-income families, a change that comes on the heels of mounting pressure from critics who argue that the ranking provided incentive for schools to favor wealthier students over less wealthy applicants, the San Francisco Chronicle reported

However, the new methodology has only scrambled the list to a certain degree. The top spots continue to be filled by the familiar Ivy League names. No. 1 and No. 2 were snagged by Princeton University and Harvard University, respectively. Columbia, MIT, University of Chicago and Yale tied for third place. Williams College remains the top liberal arts school for the 16th straight year.

The new indicators added to the formula include some meant to measure “social mobility.” The formula also dropped an acceptance rate measure that benefited schools that turned the most students away, according to Politico. The new social mobility indicators account for 5 percent of the ranking formula, which means that now 13 percent of a school’s rank is tied to the economic diversity of its campus.

“A university is not successful if it does not graduate its students, which is why the Best Colleges rankings place the greatest value on outcomes, including graduation and retention rates,” said Robert Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News, as reported by the Chronicle. “By including social mobility indicators, U.S. News is further recognizing colleges that serve all of their students, regardless of economic status.”

To rank schools, U.S. News collects and analyzes data from surveys and information about graduation rates, faculty resources, student academic credentials, alumni giving and other factors, according to the San Francisco Chronicle report. Critics have long said the formula relies too much on prestige and wealth, and not enough on the value schools add to society.

Some of the colleges that benefited most from the revamped indicators include the entire California university system — “partly due to the universities’ performance graduating high proportions of low-income students,” Morse said, as per Politico.

Five of the University of California schools ranked in the top 10 of Top Public Schools among National Universities: Los Angeles at No. 1, Berkeley at No. 2, Santa Barbara tied at No. 5, Irvine at No. 7 and Davis tied at No. 10.

The University of California at Los Angeles came in at No. 19, placing it ahead of the state flagship campus, Berkeley at No. 22, for the first time, the Chronicle reported.