With a change in methodology, there were some surprises in US News and World Report's 2014 Best Colleges rankings released today. The rankings are heavily used by students, families, and counselors as a guide for finding top schools. Putting more weight on graduation and retention, and less on selectivity, some colleges slipped in their rankings while others were rewarded, according to Robert Morse who heads the rankings project.
Morse explained that while President Obama and the Department of Education recently announced a call for rating colleges according to outcome measures, such as graduation rates, US News and World Report had already made changes in their methodology earlier this Spring. The new methodology puts less emphasis on admitted students' class rank, since many high schools have stopped ranking students. Test optional schools must report a minimum percentage of SAT or ACT scores in order for selectivity to factor into the equation.
The number one spot for 2014 Up and Comers-National Universities was University of Maryland, Baltimore County known for its charismatic President, Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, who has served in that role since 1992. Under Hrabowski, UMBC has been a leader in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education, leading more African-American undergraduates toward PhDs than any other predominately white university in the US. UMBC's non-traditional approach to STEM teaching take students out of lecture halls for more hands-on, self-directed learning. The Up and Comers rankings are compiled by college administrators who nominate their peer institutions.
The Best Colleges list includes regional schools, liberal arts colleges, engineering programs, and divides colleges and universities into Top Tier and Second Tier categories. Second Tier schools are listed alphabetically. Along with other sources of college data, from guide books to the Common Data Set, students should use the US News and World Report's rankings as a platform for exploring colleges that will be the "best fit."