The table below includes the 152 top-ranked "national liberal arts" schools according to U.S. News in 2012.
Overall and individual ranking methodologies are explained below.
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The 152 liberal arts schools listed above were those ranked highest by U.S. News in 2012. The United States Military, Naval, and Air Force academies are classified as national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News. Since they are not so classified by all of the other four rankings included here (and to prevent an inaccurately low composite ranking), they are not included here.
Schools that are unranked by a particular ranking source are given a default ranking, which is shown in red. The default ranking is the ranking the school would have received had it been the next highest ranked school. (An exception is made for Forbes, where any school ranked lower than 150—or unranked—receives a default ranking of 151.)
The composite rankings are most accurate for those schools ranked by all five constituent ranking sources.
U.S. News has been ranking colleges and universities for nearly 30 years. The 2012 edition of the rankings, published in September 2011, is based on 15 metrics.
Academic reputation is worth 22.5%, and consists of a peer assessment survey (66.7%) and ratings from high school counselors (33.3%).
Student selectivity is worth 15%, and consists of the school’s acceptance rate (10%), percentage of students in the top 10% of their high school class (40%), and SAT or ACT scores (50%).
Faculty resources count for 20%, and consist of faculty compensation (35%), percentage of faculty holding PhD or equivalent (15%), percentage of faculty that is full-time (5%), student/faculty ratio (5%), and class size (40%).
Rounding out the rankings:
Graduation rate: 16%
Freshman retention rate: 4%
Financial resources per student: 10%
Alumni giving: 5%
Graduation rate performance: 7.5%
More detailed information about the methodology used by U.S. News can be found here.
U.S. News provides rankings for all 152 of the schools included in the table above.
Kiplinger, a business and personal finance publisher, has been ranking colleges and universities for more than ten years, always with a focus on value for money. The 2012 rankings, published in December 2011 and limited to private schools, are based on five metrics:
The total cost of attending the school, net of all financial aid provided by the school, is worth 31.25%.
Competitiveness, based on test scores, acceptance rate, and enrollment rate, is worth 25%.
Academic support, measured by faculty/student ratio and freshman retention rate, is worth 12.5%.
Graduation rate, with highest marks to schools that graduate students in four years, is worth 18.75%.
Student indebtedness at graduation, the lower the better, is worth 12.5%.
More detailed information about the methodology used by Kiplinger can be found here.
Kiplinger ranks 97 of the 152 schools included in the table above.
Note that Kiplinger originally ranked Claremont McKenna College at 18. After learning that a Claremont official had been submitting inflated SAT scores for several years, Kiplinger decided to remove the school from its 2012 rankings and adjust the rankings for the remaining schools. Read more about the controversy, and Kiplinger’s response, here.
Parchment is an education data company founded in 2003. Using its database of over 120,000 college acceptances and student enrollment decisions, Parchment ranks liberal arts schools based on desirability (as demonstrated by accepted students’ decisions to enroll at one school versus another).
More detailed information about the methodology used by Parchment can be found here.
Parchment ranks 69 of the 152 schools included in the table above. (Parchment classifies several schools as liberal arts colleges that U.S. News classifies as regional universities. Those schools have been removed from Parchment’s ranking, with the remaining schools reranked.)
Washington Monthly has published rankings of liberal arts schools since 2006. The 2011 rankings are based on three equally weighted categories: social mobility, research, and service.
More detailed information about the methodology used by Washington Monthly can be found here.
Washington Monthly provides rankings for 148 of the 152 schools included in the table above.
Forbes published its latest annual ranking of liberal arts colleges in August 2011, based on five broad measures:
Student satisfaction is worth 27.5%.
Graduate success is worth 30%.
Student debt is worth 17.5%.
Four-year graduation rate is worth 17.5%.
Nationally competitive student awards count for 7.5%.
More detailed information about the methodology used by Forbes can be found here.
Forbes provides rankings for 150 of the 152 schools included in the table above. As explained in the section on overall methodology, all schools ranked by Forbes lower than 150 were given a default ranking of 151.
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