August 12, 2010 — The University of Virginia is the top non-military-academy public university in Forbes Magazines "America's Best Colleges" rankings, released Wednesday.
U.Va. ranks 44th overall among the 610 schools on the Forbes list, which was compiled with the assistance of the Center for College Affordability & Productivity. The only public institutions rated higher are the United States Military Academy (No. 4), the U.S. Air Force Academy (No. 11) and the U.S. Naval Academy (No. 29).
In total, 88 of the top 100 schools on the Forbes list are private. Trailing U.Va. among public schools in the top 100 are the College of William & Mary (No. 46), Virginia Military Institute (No. 60), the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (No. 62), the University of California, Berkeley (No. 65), the University of California, Los Angeles (No. 71), the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (No. 92), the University of Florida (No. 93) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (No. 97).
The top-rated school was Williams College, followed by Princeton University, Amherst College, the U.S. Military Academy and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The Forbes rankings have a heavy consumerist influence. In explaining its methodology, the business magazine wrote: "Americans spend more money on college education than nearly any other investment. Just as they want home inspectors to evaluate possible house purchases, and Consumer Reports or J.D. Power and Associates to help guide car purchases, they look to information providers like Forbes to assist them in their choice of colleges and universities."
To that end, rankings of student satisfaction – chiefly from RateMyProfessor.com – account for 27.5 percent of the score. Postgraduate success, including alumni salaries, are weighted 30 percent, and measures of student debt account for 17.5 percent of the score.
Also factored in are the four-year graduation rate (17.5 percent) and competitive awards won by students (7.5 percent).
The commonwealth of Virginia was well represented, with 17 schools appearing on the Forbes list. Besides U.Va., William & Mary and VMI, other Virginia schools listed included Washington and Lee University (No. 37), the University of Richmond (No. 84), Sweet Briar College (No. 87), Randolph-Macon College (No. 103), Virginia Tech (No. 156), James Madison University (No. 169), Hampden-Sydney College (No. 205), the University of Mary Washington (No. 208), Hollins University (No. 267), Randolph College (No. 272), Emory and Henry College (No. 278), George Mason University (No. 297), Roanoke College (No. 433) and Longwood University (No. 462).
In a separate ranking of "America's Best College Buys," Forbes rated U.Va. 43rd overall. Those rankings were derived by dividing each school's overall quality score by its 2008 tuition and fees.
The rankings do not take into direct account financial aid – though student debt factors into the overall quality score. In the Princeton Review "Guide to the 373 Best Colleges" released earlier this month, U.Va.'s financial aid program, AccessUVa, was rated second in the country.
Forbes released its rankings days before Tuesday's expected announcement of the closely watched U.S. News and World Report rankings.