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Local colleges gain ground in U.S. News rankings

The 2011 U.S. News & World Report college rankings came out at midnight Tuesday, and the news is mostly good for universities in the D.C. region.

Climbing even a single place in the preeminent college rankings is an accomplishment in the top 50 spots. Several local institutions gained at least that much ground.

There's little movement at the top of the rankings. If there's a national headline, it may be that Columbia University has displaced MIT as the fourth-ranked national university. Harvard, Princeton and Yale rank 1-2-3, same as last year.

Rounding out this year's top 10: Stanford, Penn, Cal Tech, Dartmouth, Duke and the University of Chicago. Of that group, only Dartmouth missed the top 10 a year ago.

Among nationally ranked liberal arts schools, this year's top rankings mirror last year's precisely: Williams College, followed by Amherst, Swarthmore, Middlebury and Wellesley (tied -- again), Bowdoin and Pomona (tied -- again), then Carleton College, which last year tied with Davidson College but this year edges it out for non-alphabetical reasons.

Locally, Johns Hopkins University moves from 14th on last year's list to 13th this year on the ranking of top national universities, the most prestigious of the many U.S. News tabulations.

Georgetown University ascends from 23rd last year to 21st this year.

The University of Virginia, tied with UCLA for 24th place a year ago, falls just behind to claim the 25th spot on the national university rankings. They are again the top-ranked public universities in the nation, along with Berkeley.

The College of William and Mary ranks 31st, up from 33rd last year.

Proceeding to page two of the rankings, we have George Washington University, up from 53 in the rankings last year to 51 this year.

The University of Maryland suffers a small retreat, from 53rd in last year's rankings to 56th, where it is tied with several other schools.

Virginia Tech ranks 69th, up from 71st a year ago.

American University captures the 79 spot, up five places from last year's 84th rank. It is the last local institution ranked in the top 100.

In the national ranking of liberal arts colleges, Washington and Lee University claims the 14th spot, same as last year, and is the highest Mid-Atlantic school on the list.

The U.S. Naval Academy climbs three spots to 16th.

The University of Richmond sits at 32, down from 30 last year.

The Virginia Military Institute ranks 62nd, the same as last year. St. Mary's College of Maryland climbs four spots to 88th.

Administrators of Washington College must be celebrating. They rank 93rd this year, up from 112th in the 2010 rankings.

Hampden-Sydney College, meanwhile, drops from 97th to 111th.

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By Daniel de Vise  |  August 17, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
Categories:  Admissions , Liberal Arts , Rankings  | Tags: America's Best Colleges, Georgetown ranking, Hopkins ranking, U.S. News rankings, William Mary ranking, college rankings  
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What good is a Harvard degree these days? We have a couple of Harvard people (w/PhD degrees) who lack the basic composition skills to write a clear, concise paragraph or two.

It's all about making the most of your abilities and opportunities (work ethic), so brand name does not mean much IMHO.

Posted by: infrequentposter | August 17, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

A great review of the relative ranking of colleges and universities.

For the motivation to make it through another semester, or for the push needed to get through another day at work, check out

for all your humorously motivational needs!

Posted by: joeysch | August 17, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Didn't ACTA just come out with its report on the poor quality of some of the top ranked colleges/universities in the US? For those that have not seen the ACTA report, you can view the website at

That should help keep these college rankings in perspective. The methodology used for ranking college's based upon manipulated statistics rather than judging the actual competencies gained from a solid core curriculum is enough to make you question these rankings. It's time that we stop allowing "fake" degrees from elitist universities to get a "pass". If you really are that smart, then why can't you take a real high level math/science course in college for example. Don't tell me about "testing out" of college requirements using SAT/ACT or AP/IB examinations. That's for gauging your mastery of high school material (which is not nearly in depth as it would be in college). If you can master pre-cal/cal in high school, then you should be required to take an even more challenging math course in college like theoretical, combinatorial math or linear programming. You can't be all that smart if you are unwilling to take something like that at HARVARD or YALE?

Posted by: kitten2 | August 17, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

USWNR's rankings are paid for. LOL. I can't believe anyone takes this crap seriously.

Either you are intelligent, creative, able to communicate via words and numbers, or you cannot.

Posted by: FiatBooks | August 17, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

"Climbing even a single place in the preeminent college rankings is an accomplishment in the top 50 spots. Several local institutions gained at least that much ground."

Really? This statement is symptomatic of the dangers of attaching too much urgency or meaning to these rankings. While I admittedly was poring through them last evening, seconds after their release, I doubt the methodology that drives these rankings so precise that there is measurable difference in true quality between school #50 and school #51.

The US News rankings constitute one data source that may be helpful in assessing a school's match to a particular student. Nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by: wdc55 | August 17, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

There's a simple two letter moniker for these USN&WR rankings - B. S.

Posted by: nadie1 | August 17, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Oh yes, Harvard. Does it also rank number 1 in Schools-That -Accept- Connected- People Who -Shoplift? Or, Scholars- Who- Fudge Research?

Posted by: Tess6 | August 17, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

These rankings are like the Academy Awards because [insert your thoughts here]

Posted by: perryneheum | August 17, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Re: core curricula - Yes, some schools may require more core classes, but at what level are they taught? UDC placed highest of all the universities in the District, but it also has the lowest graduation rates and pays its professors most poorly (about 60% of what Georgetown/GW pay theirs, according to Chronicle of Higher Education). It doesn't matter how many core courses you require if you don't have good teachers teaching at a high level.

Posted by: clarinetsarethebest | August 17, 2010 11:41 PM | Report abuse

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