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.”