With that in mind, here is a closer look at how schools in Maryland, Virginia and the District fared in the latest U.S. News rankings released Wednesday. It is important to remember that all such rankings are deeply subjective, reflecting methodological choices. Many academic leaders dismiss the rankings or even refuse to participate in surveys that provide data for them.
Liberal arts colleges,which focus primarily on undergraduate education, often get less attention than big-name doctoral universities. But there are several such schools in the region of significant stature. The private Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis rank 14th on the U.S. News list of best national liberal arts colleges.
The private University of Richmond (28), the public Virginia Military Institute (70) in Lexington, the public St. Mary’s College of Maryland (87), the private Washington College (96) in Chestertown, Md., and the private Sweet Briar College (100) in Sweet Briar, Va., also placed highly on that list. Of those schools, the one with the highest share of undergraduate students who receive Pell grants is Sweet Briar, a women’s college, where 20 percent have the need-based federal grants.
Regional colleges and universities, which U.S. News puts on separate lists, fly below the national radar but serve a huge share of the market. The private Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore ranks second among northeastern regional universities (the list is actually termed “north”). The public James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., is sixth among regional universities in the south — defined as states south of the Ohio and Potomac rivers, south of Missouri, and east of Texas and Oklahoma.
An arbitrary but useful cutoff — the top 30 — pinpoints some other notable regional schools.
Among regional universities in the south, the public University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg is 16th, the public Christopher Newport University in Newport News is 23rd, the private Hampton University in southeastern Virginia is 27th, and the private Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., is 28th.
The private Averett University in Danville, Va., is 27th among regional colleges in the south. (Regional colleges, as U.S. News defines them, are separate from regional universities and focus more on undergraduate education.)
Among regional universities in the north, the private Gallaudet University in the District, a renowned school for the deaf and hard of hearing, is 17th. The private Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., is 23rd, and the private Hood College in Frederick is 26th.