Last month, U.S. News & World Report released their annual rankings of national universities.
The category is comprised of research universities offering a full range of undergraduate majors, as well as master’s and doctoral programs. The ranking methodology relies on hundreds of data points, emphasizing academics and student outcomes in particular. Graduation rates, freshman retention, and other sources indicate how well schools support their students academically and financially, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The rankings also factor in a variety of complexities—for example, because research shows that students in STEM fields graduate at lower rates, U.S. News & World Report took into account the proportion of degrees that a school awarded in STEM fields when measuring whether students were graduating at anticipated levels.
The 2018 rankings are typical in that the top universities have remained consistent compared to previous years, with Princeton University in first place for the seventh year in a row. The most notable change among top universities was MIT’s movement up two places, from #7 in 2017’s rankings to #5 in the 2018 rankings. MIT now follows Columbia, Yale, University of Chicago, Harvard, and Princeton. (University of Chicago and Yale tied for third place once again.)
There were more changes toward the bottom of the list—which, it should be noted, still places a university among the top 300 in the country, an exceptional achievement. Utah State University moved up four spots to #216 and the University of Montana moved up seven, to #207, tying with the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, which moved up 13 places.
The national university among the top 100 schools that saw the greatest improvement was the University of Oklahoma, which moved up 14 places to #97. The largest jump in the overall list was New Mexico State University, which moved up 22 places to #198.
Three distinct geographic areas saw the most significant improvements in 2018: the Northeast, Southwest, and Florida. In the Northeast, Howard University, Robert Morris University, the University of Hartford, Lesley University, the University of Massachusetts Boston, and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth all had double-digit improvements in their rankings.
In the Southwest, Arizona State University, New Mexico State University, and Dallas Baptist University moved up at least 14 places in the rankings. But perhaps the most striking data point is the overall improvement of Florida’s universities. With one exception, every single ranked Florida university moved up at least five spots in the 2018 rankings—the University of South Florida and the Florida Institute of Technology moved up 19 and 20 places, respectively. The improvements throughout ranked Florida universities, most of which are public, can be attributed to increased state support for the university system, which has grown by nearly $1 billion since 2010. The Florida Board of Governors also approved a $5.1 billion budget request for the state university system earlier this month, continuing that trend.
Perhaps there is also something to be said for getting a degree in a sunny, warm state, because many of California’s public universities had strong showings as well. Among the top-ranked public schools, the University of California, Los Angeles shifted to first place, tying with the University of California, Berkeley. UC San Diego moved up two places to #42 and UC Santa Barbara held firm at #37.
Universities that declined in ranking can also be separated into three geographic areas: the Midwest, the South, and New York’s tristate area. In the New York area, Yeshiva University saw a large decline of 28 places, with Immaculata University and Montclair State University not far behind at 13 and 11 places, respectively. In the South, Louisiana Tech University and the University of Mississippi declined in rankings, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville had the most noteworthy drop, at 19 spots. And in the Midwest, there were drops of at least 10 places at almost 10 universities, including Kansas State University, Ball State University, and Western Michigan University.
Shorelight partner universities largely saw an uptick in rankings. The University of Illinois at Chicago moved up in the 2018 rankings by seven places, to #145, while University of Central Florida and American University both moved up five spots, to #171 and #69, respectively. We integrated the rankings into an interactive visualization below—scroll through to watch how university standings have changed over the year. Next week, you’ll find a new post that closely examines updated data on the average tuition students pay, by country.