College Inc.

Washington area colleges gain ground in U.S. News rankings

Monday, August 23, 2010

An Aug. 17 excerpt from Daniel de Vise's blog on the business behind higher education.

The 2011 U.S. News & World Report college rankings came out at midnight Tuesday, and the news is mostly good for universities in the Washington region.

Climbing even a single place in the preeminent rankings is an accomplishment in the top 50 spots. Several area institutions gained at least that much ground.

There's little movement at the top of the rankings. If there's a national headline, it may be that Columbia University displaced MIT as the fourth-ranked national university. Harvard, Princeton and Yale rank 1-2-3, same as last year.

Johns Hopkins University moved from 14th on last year's list to 13th in the ranking of top national universities, the most prestigious of the many U.S. News tabulations.

Georgetown University ascended from 23rd last year to 21st.

The University of Virginia, tied with UCLA for 24th place a year ago, claims the 25th spot on the national university rankings. They are again the nation's top-ranked public universities, along with Berkeley.

The College of William and Mary ranks 31st, up from 33rd.

Proceeding to page two of the rankings, we have George Washington University, up from 53rd last year to 51st.

The University of Maryland suffered a small retreat, dropping from 53rd in last year's rankings to 56th, where it is tied with several other schools.

Virginia Tech ranks 69th, up from 71st a year ago.

American University captured the 79th spot, up five places from last year's 84th rank. It is the last local institution ranked in the top 100.

Howard University, which is tied for 104th with several schools and dropped from 96th last year, remains second on the list of historically black colleges and universities.

In the national ranking of liberal arts colleges, Washington and Lee University remains at 14th and is the highest mid-Atlantic school listed.

The U.S. Naval Academy climbed three spots to 16th.

The University of Richmond sits at 32, down from 30th last year.

The Virginia Military Institute ranks 62nd, same as last year. St. Mary's College of Maryland climbed four spots to 88th.

readers respond

wdc55 wrote: "Climbing even a single place in the preeminent college rankings is an accomplishment in the top 50 spots." Really? This statement is symptomatic of the dangers of attaching too much urgency or meaning to these rankings. While I admittedly was poring through them seconds after their release, I doubt the methodology that drives these rankings is so precise that there is measurable difference in true quality between school #50 and school #51. The U.S. News rankings constitute one data source that may be helpful in assessing a school's match to a particular student. Nothing more, nothing less.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company