Virginia Tech, UVa move up in U.S. News & World Report ranking of best colleges

Ferdie Samboe

Virginia Tech made a big jump in the latest ranking of the nation’s top colleges by U.S. News & World Report, which was released Monday. The University of Virginia climbed one spot in the publication’s ranking of the top public schools in the country.

Virginia Tech moved up 13 spots, one of the biggest improvements in the country, from 75th last year to 62nd this year. The university reported a lower student-to-teacher ratio and performed well on a revamped ranking of the credentials of the school’s faculty.

The University of Virginia ranked 25th among all schools, its same position as last year. UVa tied with New York University, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and the University of Southern California.

Princeton University landed at No. 1, just as it did last year. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology ranked second, same as last year. Harvard University, which was tied for No. 2 last year, dropped one spot, tying at No. 3 with Stanford University and Yale University.

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Since 1983, U.S. News has ranked the nation’s top colleges and its rankings often influence schools’ strategic plans.

In the ranking of top public schools, UVa moved up one spot from a year prior, tying for third with Michigan. UVa has set a goal of becoming the nation’s top public university by 2030. The University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, Los Angeles tied for No. 1.

Virginia Tech gained seven spots in the public school ranking, tying for 23rd with the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and the University of Pittsburgh.

The College of William & Mary tied for 41st among all schools and 13th in the ranking of public schools. William & Mary dropped three spots in both lists.

George Mason placed 137th, James Madison University 151st and Virginia Commonwealth University 166th. In 2020, the last time U.S. News ranked the best graduate schools for fine arts, VCU placed fourth in the country.

While UVa has set a goal of becoming the nation’s top public school by 2030, the university’s understanding of what it means to the best is broader than one ranking, said Brian Coy, a spokesperson for UVa. Several other publications produce college rankings, but U.S. News’ list is the most cited.

All universities pay attention to rankings, but the vision and goals “are what drive what we do and what we shouldn’t do,” Coy said.

Jim Ryan, president of UVa, believes college rankings will look different by 2030. The quality of their classroom and residential experience, how the school contributes to the student’s future success, how long it takes for students to graduate and how much debt they incur will take on greater importance, he predicted.

How well colleges are run, how ethical they are, how much economic growth they generate, how much return on investment they provide and how well they serve the public will all be factored, he said.

Steve Farmer, UVa’s vice provost for enrollment, told the university’s alumni magazine that the school’s reputation will be enhanced by UVa focusing on its goals, not its number on a list.

“The basic idea for me is that when we’re true to who we are, and we go about our work in a way that’s both honorable and smart and caring, the rankings will take care of themselves,” Farmer said.

Columbia, which placed 18th, did not fill out a statistical survey and was ranked on data from previous years and other sources. Last year, U.S. News pulled Columbia out of its ranking after a Columbia professor questioned the data the university had submitted.

In its ranking of liberal arts colleges, Washington & Lee was 11th, and the University of Richmond placed 18th. Hampden-Sydney College ranked 94th and Randolph-Macon College was 107th.

Among public liberal arts colleges, Virginia Military Institute placed fourth, and the University of Mary Washington was 11th.

Several liberal arts colleges in Virginia did not receive a numerical ranking but were placed in the group of schools ranked between No. 151 and 200: Sweet Briar College, UVa-Wise, Virginia Union University and Virginia Wesleyan University.

In the ranking of regional universities for the South, Christopher Newport University placed second, Longwood University was fifth and Virginia State University was 37th.

In the ranking of top historically Black colleges and universities, Hampton University was sixth, Norfolk State University was 19th, Virginia State was 26th and Virginia Union was 43rd.

George Mason, Marymount University and VCU were recognized for their ethnic diversity. William & Mary ranked seventh for best undergraduate teaching.

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