US News & World Report Announces 2015 Best Colleges

The always-anticipated, always-talked-about US News & World Report Best Colleges Rankings were released today, and…

Not a whole lot has changed!

Which makes a good deal of sense. If it were possible for centuries-old institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton or massive state-funded universities like the University of California system to experience wild shifts in quality, your college choices would be a whole lot more unpredictable. College is a long-term investment and these rankings tend to evolve slowly even as schools update their curricula and campuses to stay cutting-edge. Within the Top 25 for National Universities and the Top 25 for Liberal Arts Colleges, the biggest mover was:

(drumroll…)

Wellesley College, which jumped from #7 to #4 in the Liberal Arts Rankings, part of another huge showing for the Greater Boston Area and perhaps just that extra bump that famous alumna Hillary Clinton needs to finally announce that she’s running for President?

You can see the full lists for National Universities and for National Liberal Arts Colleges on US News & World Report’s site, but we’ve included the Top 25 rankings below, followed by some thoughts on what’s interesting for the 2015 rankings.

Top 25 National Universities

1. Princeton University
2. Harvard University
3. Yale University
4. Columbia University
4. Stanford University
4. University of Chicago
7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
8. Duke University
8. University of Pennsylvania
10. California Institute of Technology
11. Dartmouth College
12. Johns Hopkins University
13. Northwestern University
14. Washington University in St. Louis
15. Cornell University
16. Brown University
16. University of Notre Dame
16. Vanderbilt University
19. Rice University
20. University of California-Berkeley
21. Emory University
21. Georgetown University
23. UCLA
23. University of Virginia
23. Carnegie Mellon University
23. University of Southern California

Top 25 National Liberal Arts Colleges

1. Williams College
2. Amherst College
3. Swarthmore College
4. Wellesley College
5. Bowdoin College
5. Pomona College
7. Middlebury College
8. Carleton College
8. Claremont McKenna College
8. Haverford College
11. Davidson College
11. Vassar College
13. United States Naval Academy
14. Washington and Lee University
15. Colby College
15. Hamilton College
15. Harvey Mudd College
15. Wesleyan University
19. Bates College
19. Grinnell College
19. Smith College
22. Colgate University
23. Oberlin College
24. Macalester College
24. Scripps College
24. United States Military Academy

What’s Noteworthy?

Boston leads the way
Long known as America’s biggest college town, Boston maintained its status as the capitol of higher education; seven schools ranked within the top 42 National Universities are reachable from the T: Harvard at #2, MIT at #7, Tufts at #27, Boston College at #31, Brandeis at #35 (well…it’s almost right on the T), and Boston University and Northeastern tied at #42. Northeastern’s ascension is also noteworthy in and of itself, as the school climbed deep into the top 50 from #69 four years ago.

It’s good to be Californian…

Never mind that several top private schools in California ranked in the top 10 of their lists (Stanford, Caltech, Pomona, and Claremont McKenna). California’s public schools are among the best value anywhere in the world, with six UC schools making the top 50: UC-Berkeley, UCLA, UC-San Diego, UC-Davis, UC-Santa Barbara, and UC-Irvine.

…and not bad to be Virginian, either
Virginia also has two of the top six public schools, with the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary each ranking among the top 33 National Universities.

The rankings are in large part a numbers game
Rankings like these are more evidence that people like assigning numerical values to education, and the rankings themselves are a huge part of that. For the first time in recent memory, Sarah Lawrence College in upstate New York jumped on to the list (at #59 among National Liberal Arts Colleges), largely because it recently began incorporating ACT and SAT scores into its admissions process. And on the other side of the ledger, Hampshire College was dropped from the rankings this year, having chosen to eliminate the ACT/SAT from its admissions decisions.

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By Scott Shrum