Harvard University and Princeton University remained tied for the top spot in this year's list of Best National Universities, which are typically large institutions that focus on research and grant bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Williams College still reigns as the lone No. 1 among National Liberal Arts Colleges, schools that emphasize undergraduate education and grant at least half their degrees in liberal arts majors such as philosophy, English, and history.
[View photos of the top National Universities.]
There was slight movement right below the top National Universities. Last year's five-way tie for fifth dissolved, with the University of Chicago bumping up to tie with Columbia University at fourth and the California Institute of Technology sliding down to 10th. Further down the rankings, one of the biggest moves was made by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which leapt nine spots from a tie at 50th to a tie at 41st.
Among the National Liberal Arts Colleges, Vassar College jumped up four spots to crack the top 10, tying with Claremont McKenna College. Harvey Mudd College rose from 18th to tie for 12th, and Bard College moved up 15 spots, from a tie at 51st to a tie at 36th.
[See the methodology for the Best Colleges rankings.]
The top-ranked Regional Universities—schools that offer many undergraduate degrees, some master's, and few doctoral programs—also continued their strongholds in each quadrant of the country: Villanova University remains first in the North, while Rollins College, Creighton University, and Trinity University remain at the top in the South, Midwest, and West, respectively.
There was some juggling, however, among the top Regional Colleges—schools that grant fewer than half their degrees in liberal arts disciplines and, like the Regional Universities, are grouped into four geographic quadrants. In the North, Cooper Union nudged out the United States Coast Guard Academy for the top spot, and down South, High Point University outseated John Brown University. The top Regional Colleges in the Midwest and West, Taylor University and Carroll College, remained in the same spots from last year.
At schools across the country, debt is a top concern for students and their parents. A majority of students borrow for college—and some amount of debt can be healthy—but it's important to research your options before you take out a student loan. For reference, U.S. News provides a list of the colleges that graduate students with the most debt, on average, as well as a list of colleges where the most students receive merit aid. U.S. News also ranks Best Value Schools, which provide students with the highest academic quality at the least net cost.
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Another piece of the college investment question comes after graduation: Will your school and your major help you to land a job? To help students identify employers recruiting from their colleges, U.S. News has added a "Jobs and Internships" tab on each school profile page. Users can also search by field of study or location to find jobs and internships that employers are looking to fill with graduates from specific schools.
For students with a clear career path in mind, several updated rankings lists may help them narrow their college options. U.S. News has ranked the Best Undergraduate Business Programs and the Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs—each of which includes specialty rankings, such as Best Accounting Programs, Best Finance Programs, Best Chemical Engineering Programs, and Best Computer Engineering Programs.
Beyond the rankings, which also include new lists of Up-and-Coming Schools and A+ Schools for B Students, users can find a vast array of information on U.S. News school profile pages, and in articles and blog posts written to help students find the right school for them.
Looking for full rankings information? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find all published data points, including student debt and employment statistics.