The annual U.S. News and World Report ranking of 1,391 American colleges and universities was released last week, and several local schools made a strong showing. Rankings are based on a number of factors, including test scores and GPAs of incoming students, student retention and graduation rates, financial resources and alumni giving, and the opinions of administrators of similarly ranked schools.
Villanova snagged the No. 1 spot on the list of regional universities in the north; The College of New Jersey was No. 6 and St. Joseph's came in eighth. Also making strong showings were Rutgers-Camden (at 20), and La Salle and Rider, which were among six schools tied for No. 26.
The national list of liberal arts colleges included Swarthmore (3) and Haverford (9). Among public universities, Penn State ranked No. 13 nationally.
Another list is what U.S. News calls "A+ schools for B students" -- schools with strong overall programs that accept a significant number of students who don't have perfect test scores or GPAs. These include St. Joseph's at No. 8, Rowan at 19 and Arcadia at 33.
Drexel scored the No. 3 spot nationally on the list of "up and coming schools," those "making the most promising and innovative changes in the areas of academics, faculty, and student life."
September is not only back-to-school time for students already in college, it's when high school seniors kick their college application process into high gear. Thus it's also when several magazines and websites -- U.S. News and World Report, Forbes, Princeton Review and many others -- release their "best of" college lists.
All these lists use different methods for creating their rankings, and all have had their methods criticized. Before using a list, figure out whether what it's measuring is important to you.
On the programs
In addition to overall rankings, U.S. News ranks specific programs.
The best undergraduate business programs in the country are offered at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.
In engineering, Villanova is No. 10 on the list of schools that do not offer doctorates, and Princeton is No. 10 on the list of schools that do. For specialties within the field of engineering, Penn State did quite well: They were seventh for industrial/manufacturing engineering, eighth for materials engineering and 10th for aerospace engineering.