UVA Advances One Spot in Retooled U.S. News Ranking to No. 24 Nationally

September 18, 2023 By Jane Kelly, jak4g@virginia.edu Jane Kelly, jak4g@virginia.edu

U .S. News & World Report has ranked the University of Virginia the No. 24 best overall university in the country, advancing from No. 25 last year.

In the magazine’s 2024 report, the University is tied with Emory University, Washington University and Carnegie Mellon University.

The rankings, which were made public on Monday, identify the University as the No. 5 public university (down two spots from last year), and the No. 3 “Best Value” school among public institutions, up one spot from last year’s rankings.

The latest rankings, which are the first since U.S. News & World Report overhauled its methodology for assessing universities, affirm UVA’s standing as one of the best institutions of higher education in the country. They also echo prior rankings focused on the return on investment that universities offer their students. In April, The Princeton Review ranked UVA the No. 2 best-value public university in the country.

This year’s rankings again highlighted the extraordinary success of UVA students, as measured by their graduation rates. Among the top 30 ranked schools, UVA’s six-year graduation rate ranked first among public universities and was tied for 11th overall with five other universities; and the graduation rate of UVA recipients of federal Pell Grants - a financial aid program for students from lower- to moderate-income households - also ranked first among public universities and tied for 13th overall with three other schools.

“Our strong position reflects the incredible talent and dedication of our students, faculty and staff, as well as the support of our alumni and the people of Virginia,” said Steve Farmer, UVA’s vice provost for enrollment. “No ranking tells the full story of any school, and most rely on data that are at least a few years old, so they’re better at describing where we’ve been than where we are. But I think our results demonstrate the strength of our students and the way our community cares for them and encourages them to excel.”

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UVA’s marks in this year’s rankings come amidst extensive change in the rankings themselves, which resulted in significant swings in the positions of many schools from the prior year, with institutions dropping as many as 18 spots. 

This year’s rankings eliminated five factors, including alumni giving, the percentage of faculty with the highest degrees and the percentage of first-year students in the top 10% of their high school classes.

The updated rankings also emphasize seven new factors, like first-generation students’ graduation rates and the graduation performance of first-generation students compared to non-first-generation students, and place additional focus on measures of socioeconomic diversity and mobility through factors like the number of students eligible for federal Pell grants. Of the institutions ranked ahead of UVA this year, all but two had higher percentages of Pell-eligible students than the University, including all of the public institutions that received a higher ranking.

This new focus on socioeconomic diversity and mobility aligns with increased emphasis on the same factors at UVA. The Class of 2027, for example, features more Pell Grant-holding and first-generation students than ever, building on recent trends. As in past years, this year’s rankings also rely on lagging data averaged across multiple years, meaning they do not yet reflect the impact of the increasing socioeconomic diversity within the UVA student body.

The U.S. News & World Report rankings place increased weight on faculty scholarship, another factor that aligns with a major priority at UVA. The University has recently launched a “Grand Challenges” research initiative, and sponsored research reached a record high of $532 million in fiscal year 2023, a 22% increase over the prior year.

“We want to do our best for great students throughout the commonwealth, including those who’ve excelled against the odds,” Farmer said. “These students make everyone around them better, and expanding opportunities for them benefits their classmates, their families, and our community. I’m glad the new formula for these rankings is aligned with our mission and our values. Our success in expanding opportunity for outstanding students will show up in the rankings in future years.”

Farmer said rankings do not change UVA’s mission, values or strategy. “We work every day to get better - to advance President [Jim] Ryan’s vision of a UVA that’s great and good and to build on the success of those who came before us. When we’re true to who we are, and when we go about our work in a way that’s honorable and smart and caring, the rankings will take care of themselves.”

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