The U.S. News and World Report publishes an annual list of the best national universities. It further publishes rankings of the best liberal arts colleges, the best regional universities, best medical schools and the best regional colleges, according to their website.
College rankings are inherently subjective, and the factors the magazine considers in its lists are not designed to take many intangible aspects of college life into account, according to U.S. News. Rather, the ranking team focuses on more objective measures of the quality of a college or university.
The U.S. News rankings divide colleges into four categories, as outlined by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning. The categories are: national universities, national liberal arts colleges, regional universities and regional colleges, U.S. News states. The federal government uses the Carnegie Classifications to determine grant eligibility.
The ranking data is derived from a statistical survey of more than 1,300 colleges and universities and from other sources, states U.S. News. About 22.5 percent of a college's U.S. News ranking comes from its undergraduate academic reputation, which factors in the opinions of leading academicians and administrators in order to account for many non-quantifiable measures, such as faculty dedication, the magazine states. Another 22.5 percent comes from retention, a measure of how many students stay in the school and eventually graduate. About 20 percent comes from faculty resources, such as student-faculty ratio and faculty pay. Another 12.5 percent comes from selectivity, including average SAT scores and acceptance rate. A school's financial resources count for 10 percent of the ranking. A comparison of a school's actual graduation rate and its predicted graduation rate affects 7.5 percent of the score. The final 5 percent comes from how many alumni of the school donate to their alma mater.