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Princeton tops outcome-focused US News rankings

A new system largely based on university performance at enrolling and graduating students from various backgrounds has seen Princeton take top spot in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings.

Princeton once again claimed top sport in U.S. News' rankings of US National Universities. Photo: Pexels

More than 50% of a university’s rank now hinges on student outcomes

The 2024 U.S. News rankings, published on September 18, saw MIT come in second place in its rankings for national universities, with Harvard and Stanford in a tie at third place and Yale taking fifth place – an entirely unchanged top five from 2023.

U.S. News said that the new system it is using means that more than 50% of a university’s rank now hinges on student outcomes, including how much debt students come out with and their post-graduation success.

Eric Gertler, executive chairman and CEO of U.S. News, said the “significant changes in this year’s methodology” are part of an evolution that is “ongoing”.

“[We want] to make sure our rankings capture what is most important for students as they compare colleges and select the school that is right for them.”

“We increased the emphasis on how often schools’ students from all socioeconomic backgrounds earned degrees and took advantage of information on graduate outcomes that was not available until recently,” U.S. News elaborated.

The rest of the top 10 included the University of Pennsylvania in sixth place, CalTech and Duke tied for seventh place, and Brown and Johns Hopkins tied for ninth place.

MIT frequently hits the top spot in QS’s world rankings, with Harvard and Stanford also in this year’s top five, but Princeton’s consistency at the top spot in the U.S. News rankings is not reflected in the QS ranking. It was joint 17th in 2024’s roster.

U.S. News releases its rankings by a plethora of categories, with many schools overlapping certain rankings in economics, most innovative schools and others.

The separated categories are when schools are considered as National Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities and Regional Colleges.

In the Liberal Arts Colleges category, Williams College in Virginia clinched the top spot, with Amherst College coming in second place – showing little change from the previous year’s rankings.

“Significant [methodology changes] are part of our ongoing evolution”

It was not just additions in the methodology that were made, but also changes in terms of what will now not be considered as part of the rankings.

Class sizes will now not come into consideration, nor alumni giving, high school class standing or how many graduates borrow federal loans – faculty with terminal degrees will also be omitted from the criteria.

The organisation highlighted that with the new “outcomes-focused” adjustments to the methodology, some schools jumped up in rank significantly.

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, which ranks 296th in the National Universities list, jumped 106 places as a result – University of Texas at San Antonio jumped 92 places to 280th.

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