General information on ranking

Name of the ranking (in English) US News Best Colleges
Name of the ranking (in original) US News Best Colleges
Scope of the ranking general ranking
Name of person in charge of ranking Robert Morse
Website of the ranking
First year of publication 1983
Most recent year of publication 2022
Date of last update 2023-05-23
Publication frequency annual
Ranking organization U.S. News & World Report LP
Methodology website

The Ranking includes four ranking lists and all of them consider the same methodology:


The U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Rankings are calculated using 17 key measures of quality. They fall into nine broad areas: graduation and retention, graduation rate performance, graduate indebtedness, social mobility, faculty resources, expert opinion, financial resources, student excellence, and alumni giving. The indicators include both input measures, which reflect the quality of students, faculty and other resources used in education, and outcome measures, which capture the results of the education an individual receives at the institution. Definitions and weights of ranking criteria:


  • Graduation rate average: the percentage of entering first-year students who graduated within a six-year period, averaged over the classes entering from fall 2012 through fall 2015. (17.6%)
  • First-year student retention rate average: the percentage of first-year students who returned to the same college or university the following fall. The average first-year student retention rate indicates the average proportion of the first-year classes entering from fall 2017 through fall 2020 who returned the following fall. (4.4%) 



  • Pell Grant graduation rates: it measures a school’s success at graduating Pell Grant students, who are from low-income backgrounds. A school’s six-year graduation rate among new fall 2014 and fall 2015 entrants receiving Pell Grants is used.
  • Pell Grant graduation rate performance: it assesses success at achieving equitable outcomes for students from. (2.5%) underserved backgrounds. It divides each school’s six-year graduation rate among fall 2014 and fall 2015 new entrant Pell recipients by the rate achieved by non-Pell recipients, with higher ratios scoring better than lower ratios. (2.5%) 



  • Graduation rate performance: This is a comparison between the actual six-year graduation rate for students entering in fall 2014 and fall 2015 and the predicted graduation rate for the proportion who graduated six years later in 2020 and 2021. For the second consecutive year, the graduate rate performance indicator is based on the average of the two most recent graduating classes – for this ranking, it’s of the fall 2014 and fall 2015 cohort. The predicted graduation rate is based on characteristics of the entering class, as well as characteristics of the institution. 



  • Expert opinion: This is a measure of how a school is regarded by administrators at peer institutions on a peer assessment survey. A school’s peer assessment score is determined by surveying presidents, provosts and deans of admissions, or officials in equivalent positions, at institutions in the school’s ranking category.



  • Class size: This assesses the ability of students to engage with their instructors in class. This was based on the average of fall 2020 and fall 2021 class size data. Schools receive the most credit in this index for their proportions of undergraduate classes with fewer than 20 students. Classes with 20 to 29 students score second highest, 30 to 39 students third highest and 40 to 49 students fourth highest. Classes that have 50 or more students receive no credit. (8%)
  • Average faculty salaries: Research shows there is a link between academic outcomes and compensation of faculty. The average faculty pay is adjusted for regional differences in cost of living. This includes full-time assistant, associate and full-time professors. Higher average faculty salaries after adjusting for regional cost of living score better than lower average faculty salaries. (7%)
  • Faculty with a doctoral or terminal degree: the percentage of full-time faculty members with a doctorate or the highest degree possible in their field or specialty during the 2021-2022 academic year. (3%)
  • Proportion of full-time faculty: A higher proportion of faculty members who are full time scores better than a lower proportion in the ranking model. (1%)
  • Student-faculty ratio: The ratio of full-time-equivalent students to full-time-equivalent faculty members. (1%) 



  • SAT/ACT scores: Average test scores on both the SAT math and evidence-based reading and writing portions, and the composite ACT of all enrolled first-time, first-year students entering in fall 2021 are combined for the ranking model. (5%)
  • High school class standing: the proportion of students enrolled for the academic year beginning in fall 2021 who graduated in the top 10% (for National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges) or top 25% (for Regional Universities and Regional Colleges) of their high school class. (2%) 



  • Financial resources: Financial resources are measured by the average spending per full-time-equivalent student on instruction, research, public service, academic support, student services and institutional support during the fiscal years ending in 2020 and 2021.



  • Alumni giving rate average: the nonweighted mean percentage of undergraduate alumni of record who donated money to the college or university. The percentage of alumni giving serves as a proxy for how satisfied students are with the school. A higher average alumni giving rate scores better than a lower rate in the ranking model. The alumni giving rate is calculated by dividing the number of alumni donors during a given academic year by the number of alumni of record for that same year.



  • Graduate indebtedness total: the average amount of accumulated federal loan debt among the 2020 and 2021 bachelor’s degree graduating class. (3%)
  • Graduate indebtedness proportion with debt: the percentage of graduates from the 2020 and 2021 bachelor’s degree graduating class who borrowed federal loans. (2%)

Additional information

  • Main target groups: students and parents, higher education institutions
  • Level of comparison: institutional: between 54 (Best Regional Colleges Ranking - North) and 443 (Best National University Ranking), depending on the ranking
  • Major dimensions covered: reputation, research, teaching, social mobility
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