Average U.S. News Rankings for 129 Universities: 2011-2018

Updated on September 12, 2017, to include new U.S. News rankings for 2018.  Listed below are the yearly rankings and overall average rankings of 129 national universities that were included in the first tier of the U.S. News Best Colleges from 2011 through 2018. There are 64 public and 65 private universities. The list below not only shows the average rankings over this eight-year period but also lists the number of places lost or gained by each university.

As a group, the private universities have had an average increase in the rankings of .15 places, while the public universities have had an average decline of 1.7, demonstrating what we have observed in the past–public universities are, in general, not on an upward trajectory in the rankings. Yet this is something of an improvement over the last set we published, covering the years 2010–2017. That set show that public universities lost an average five placed during that eight-year period while private colleges gain two places.

A big reason for the negative impact on public university rankings is surely the severe budget cuts by legislatures across the country in the wake of the Great Recession. As economic times improve, one would hope that much more of the state funding will be restored. But, realistically, that is not likely to happen, and increasing reliance on private funds by public colleges appears to be the only way not to fall behind–or, at least, not to fall farther behind.

The rate of decline in public university rankings appears to be improving, except that in absolute terms the average rankings remain significantly lower than in 2009.

While we appreciate the massive amount of data that the U.S. News rankings provide on class sizes, grad rates, retention rates, and even selectivity, on the whole the rankings fail to evaluate efficiency (the number of students who receive a high-quality education at a relatively low cost) and should not use selectivity and wealth as metrics.

One reason for the sudden rise in a school’s ranking is increased “gaming” of the rankings. Some institutions, public and private, but mostly the latter, have geared their marketing and merit aid to increase the number of applicants and lower their acceptance rates accordingly. This makes them more “selective” and helps to improve their rankings.

Northeastern University, for example, has risen 40 places in the rankings since 2010, and 56 places since 2008.  How likely is it that in such a short period of time Northeastern has actually improved so dramatically, from 96th to 40th? (The ranking did, however, drop one place (39 to 40) from 2017 to 2018.

We will try to explore further “gaming” scenarios, but for 2018 the most notable changes, up or down, follow. Note: We are not asserting that the gains below are due to “gaming,” although, in part, they may be. Although the overall average for public universities has fallen, several public institutions have had sizable gains. It should be noted, however, that many with such gains were ranked extremely low in 2011, thus allowing more room for improvement.

Up since 2011: NC State +30; Northeastern +29; UMass Amherst +28; Arizona State +24; Florida State +23; SUNY Buffalo +23; TCU +21; Boston University +19; Stevens Inst of Tech +17; Brigham Young +14; Loyola Chicago +14; Oklahoma +14; UConn +13; Tulane +11; Florida +11.  We do know that the state of Florida has made a strong effort to raise the profile of their leading universities.

Down since 2011: Yeshia -44 (how is this possible?); Alabama -31; UC Riverside -30; Missouri -26; Dayton -25; Iowa State -21; Nebraska -20; Auburn -18; Marquette -15; Indiana -15; Kansas -11; Pacific -11; UT Austin -11. (UT Austin struggles with grad rates; one reason might be rule that the top 7%-8% of students, by class rank, make up 75% of total admits, even with significantly lower test scores than other applicants from highly competitive high schools that do not make the top 7%-8%.)

The U.S. News rankings not only over-emphasize the metrics related to a university’s financial resources but also, especially in the last five years or so, reward selectivity when, in fact, the results of the selectivity are already considered. Why should Stanford be rewarded for having an acceptance rate o f 5% and be rewarded for having high graduation and retention rates, both of which are largely the result of selectivity. Using test scores as a factor in predicting what grad rates should be is fine, as is rewarding or penalizing schools for exceeding or not meeting such predictions. But the high scores themselves and the low acceptance percentages merely duplicate what is more properly measured by outcomes.

We will have more to say on these issues in the future. But for now, here are the historical rankings, the average of each school across eight years, and the increase or decline of each school from 2011 through 2018. The universities are listed in order of their average ranking across the years.

Here is the list.

US News 2011–2018 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Avg Rank Chg 2011
to 2018
Princeton 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1.125 1
Harvard 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 1.625 -1
Yale 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 0
Columbia 4 4 4 4 4 4 5 5 4.25 -1
Chicago 9 5 4 5 4 4 3 3 4.625 6
Stanford 5 5 6 5 4 4 5 5 4.875 0
MIT 7 5 6 7 7 7 7 5 6.375 2
Penn 5 5 8 7 8 9 8 8 7.25 -3
Duke 9 10 8 7 8 8 8 9 8.375 0
Caltech 7 5 10 10 10 10 12 10 9.25 -3
Dartmouth 9 11 10 10 11 12 11 11 10.625 -2
Johns Hopkins 13 13 13 12 12 10 10 11 11.75 2
Northwestern 12 12 12 12 13 12 12 11 12 1
Brown 15 15 15 14 16 14 14 14 14.625 1
Cornell 15 15 15 16 15 15 15 14 15 1
Washington Univ 13 14 14 14 14 15 19 18 15.125 -5
Vanderbilt 17 17 17 17 16 15 15 14 16 3
Rice 17 17 17 18 19 18 15 14 16.875 3
Notre Dame 19 19 17 18 16 18 15 18 17.5 1
Emory 20 20 20 20 21 21 20 21 20.375 -1
UC Berkeley 22 21 21 20 20 20 20 21 20.625 1
Georgetown 21 22 21 20 21 21 20 20 20.75 1
USC 23 23 24 23 25 23 23 21 23.125 2
UCLA 25 25 24 23 23 23 24 21 23.5 4
Carnegie Mellon 23 23 23 23 25 23 24 25 23.625 -2
Virginia 25 25 24 23 23 26 24 25 24.375 0
Wake Forest 25 25 27 23 27 27 27 27 26 -2
Tufts 28 29 28 28 27 27 27 29 27.875 -1
Michigan 29 28 29 28 29 29 27 28 28.375 1
North Carolina 30 29 30 30 30 30 30 30 29.875 0
Boston College 31 31 31 31 31 30 31 32 31 -1
NYU 33 33 32 32 32 32 36 30 32.5 3
William & Mary 31 33 33 32 33 34 32 32 32.5 -1
Brandeis 34 31 33 32 35 34 34 34 33.375 0
Rochester 37 35 33 32 33 33 32 34 33.625 3
Georgia Tech 35 36 36 36 36 36 34 34 35.375 1
Case Western 41 38 37 37 38 37 37 37 37.75 4
UC San Diego 35 37 38 39 37 39 44 42 38.875 -7
UC Santa Barbara 39 42 41 41 40 37 37 37 39.25 2
UC Davis 39 38 38 39 38 41 44 46 40.375 -7
Lehigh 37 38 38 41 40 47 44 46 41.375 -9
RPI 41 50 41 41 42 41 39 42 42.125 -1
UC Irvine 41 45 44 49 42 39 39 42 42.625 -1
UW Madison 45 42 41 41 47 41 44 46 43.375 -1
Illinois 47 45 46 41 42 41 44 52 44.75 -5
Boston Univ 56 53 51 41 42 41 39 37 45 19
U of Miami 47 38 44 47 48 51 44 46 45.625 1
Penn State 47 45 46 37 48 47 50 52 46.5 -5
Tulane 51 50 51 52 54 41 39 40 47.25 11
Washington 41 42 46 52 48 52 54 56 48.875 -15
Florida 53 58 54 49 48 47 50 42 50.125 11
Northeastern 69 62 56 49 42 47 39 40 50.5 29
UT Austin 45 45 46 52 53 52 56 56 50.625 -11
Pepperdine 53 55 54 57 54 52 50 46 52.625 7
George Washington 51 50 51 52 54 57 56 56 53.375 -5
Ohio St 56 55 56 52 54 52 54 54 54.125 2
Yeshiva 50 45 46 47 48 52 66 94 56 -44
Fordham 56 53 58 57 58 66 60 61 58.625 -5
Maryland 56 55 58 62 62 57 60 61 58.875 -5
SMU 56 62 58 60 58 61 56 61 59 -5
Georgia 56 62 63 60 62 61 56 54 59.25 2
Syracuse 55 62 58 62 58 61 60 61 59.625 -6
Connecticut 69 58 63 57 58 57 60 56 59.75 13
Purdue 56 62 65 68 62 61 60 56 61.25 0
WPI 64 62 65 62 68 57 60 61 62.375 3
Pitt 64 58 58 62 62 66 68 68 63.25 -4
Clemson 64 68 68 62 62 61 66 67 64.75 -3
Brigham Young 75 71 68 62 62 66 68 61 66.625 14
Texas A&M 63 58 65 69 68 70 74 69 67 -6
Minnesota 64 68 68 69 71 69 71 69 68.625 -5
Rutgers 64 68 68 69 70 72 70 69 68.75 -5
Virginia Tech 69 71 72 69 71 70 74 69 70.625 0
Baylor 79 75 77 75 71 72 71 75 74.375 4
American 79 82 77 75 71 72 71 69 74.5 10
Iowa 72 71 72 73 71 82 82 78 75.125 -6
Delaware 75 75 75 75 76 75 79 81 76.375 -6
Michigan St 79 71 72 73 85 75 82 81 77.25 -2
Stevens Inst Tech 86 88 75 82 76 75 71 69 77.75 17
Col School of Mines 72 75 77 91 88 75 82 75 79.375 -3
Indiana 75 75 83 75 76 75 86 90 79.375 -15
UC Santa Cruz 72 75 77 86 85 82 79 81 79.625 -9
Clark 86 94 83 75 76 75 74 81 80.5 5
Miami Oh 79 90 89 75 76 82 79 78 81 1
Marquette 75 82 83 75 76 86 86 90 81.625 -15
UMass Amherst 99 94 97 91 76 75 74 75 85.125 24
Tulsa 93 75 83 86 88 86 86 87 85.5 6
TCU 99 97 92 82 76 82 82 78 86 21
Denver 86 82 83 91 88 86 86 87 86.125 -1
Binghamton 86 88 89 97 88 89 86 87 88.75 -1
Vermont 94 82 92 82 85 89 92 97 89.125 -3
Alabama 79 75 77 86 88 96 103 110 89.25 -31
Colorado 86 94 97 86 88 89 92 90 90.25 -4
San Diego 94 97 92 91 95 89 86 90 91.75 4
Drexel 86 88 83 97 95 99 96 94 92.25 -8
St. Louis 86 88 92 101 99 96 96 94 94 -8
Auburn 85 82 89 91 103 102 99 103 94.25 -18
Stony Brook 99 111 92 82 88 89 96 97 94.25 2
Florida St 104 101 97 91 95 96 92 81 94.625 23
NC State 111 101 106 101 95 89 92 81 97 30
Missouri 94 90 97 97 99 103 111 120 101.375 -26
New Hampshire 104 101 106 97 99 103 107 103 102.5 1
Tennessee 104 101 101 101 106 103 103 103 102.75 1
Iowa St 94 94 101 101 106 108 111 115 103.75 -21
Oklahoma 111 101 101 101 106 108 111 97 104.5 14
Nebraska 104 101 101 101 99 103 111 124 105.5 -20
Univ at Buffalo 120 111 106 109 103 99 99 97 105.5 23
Loyola Chicago 117 119 106 101 106 99 99 103 106.25 14
Oregon 111 101 115 109 106 103 103 103 106.375 8
Pacific 99 101 106 112 116 108 111 110 107.875 -11
Kansas 104 101 106 101 106 115 118 115 108.25 -11
Dayton 99 101 115 112 103 108 111 124 109.125 -25
Illinois Tech 111 111 113 109 116 108 103 103 109.25 8
South Carolina 111 111 115 112 113 108 107 103 110 8
UC Riverside 94 97 101 112 113 121 118 124 110 -30
Michigan Tech 117 111 120 117 116 123 118 124 118.25 -7
Catholic 120 119 120 121 116 123 124 120 120.375 0
Clarkson 124 119 115 121 121 115 129 124 121 0
Arizona 120 124 120 119 121 121 124 124 121.625 -4
Howard 104 111 120 142 145 135 124 110 123.875 -6
Colorado St 124 128 134 121 121 127 129 124 126 0
Kentucky 129 124 125 119 129 129 133 133 127.625 -4
Arizona St 143 132 139 142 129 129 129 115 132.25 28
Arkansas 132 132 134 128 135 129 135 133 132.25 -1
AVERAGES 61.60976 -0.54472