‘U.S. News’ Updates Methodology, but Don’t Expect Big Changes

Last year's one, two and three are this year's one, two and three.

September 14, 2020

U.S. News & World Report released its annual rankings of colleges today -- with some tweaks to the methodology, but no significant changes in those colleges ranked at the top.

The main addition to the methodology was two measures of student debt: the average amount of accumulated federal loan debt among full-time undergraduate borrowers at graduation, and the percentage of full-time undergraduates in a graduating class who took out federal loans.

Those measures were added to the "outcomes" section of the rankings, increasing its total value from 35 percent to 40 percent.

The weights for SAT and ACT scores, high school class standing and alumni giving were reduced. SAT/ACT scores and high school rank count for 7 percent of the formula, instead of 10 percent. Alumni giving now counts for 3 percent instead of 5 percent.

The SAT/ACT figures are based on those for the year just completed; next year's calculations will be the first for U.S. News in which most colleges are either test optional or test blind. U.S. News has announced that, in a break from past practice, it will rank those colleges.

As U.S. News continues to shift its methodology, one thing is not changing: the colleges at the top. The new top three national universities, according to the magazine, are last year's top three. The same is true for liberal arts colleges.



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