Top 25 universities in the US
What are the best universities in the US? A number of news organizations provide rankings of educational institutions. One of the most well-known is that published by U.S. News & World Report. Since 1987, the news organization has released annual rankings for universities and colleges, both globally and nationally. These rankings are not without criticism — quality of a school is hard to encapsulate in a single number — but they can nevertheless be a useful tool to get a quick sense of a school’s reputation.
U.S. News breaks national institutions of higher education into two categories. “National Universities” are schools which offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master's and doctoral programs, and emphasize faculty research. “National Liberal Arts Colleges,” on the other hand, focus almost exclusively on undergraduate education, and award at least half of their degrees in the arts and sciences. This graph represents the top 25 universities in the US, ranked over the past eleven years:
Princeton and Harvard have consistently held the top two places, while Yale has been joined at number three by UChicago, Columbia, and MIT in the most recent years. Stanford tends to rank just below this group, followed by Duke, Penn, Northwestern, and Dartmouth; over the past decade, Caltech has fallen somewhat in the rankings to join this latter group, while Johns Hopkins has steadily climbed to join it. Below the top ten schools fall Brown and Vanderbilt, then Cornell (the last of the Ivies), Rice, and Notre Dame. This year the last two spots were secured by Washington University in St. Louis and UCLA, the only public university in the top 20 this year. When we made this graph, we included the top 25, rather than the traditional top 20, to show some of the jockeying for position that happens at the lower end of the list; depending on the year, the top 20 might also include Emory, Georgetown, or UC Berkeley, and USC, Carnegie Mellon, and University of Virginia fall just below.
In 2019, U.S. News has changed its methodology. For the first time, the rankings “factored a school’s success at promoting social mobility by graduating students who received federal Pell Grants (those typically coming from households whose family incomes are less than $50,000 annually, though most Pell Grant money goes to students with a total family income below $20,000).” The effects of these changes have primarily been felt after the top 35 or so places in the rankings.