Forbes Magazine is making a habit of naming liberal arts colleges to the top of their top 100 colleges list. On July 29, 2015 Forbes named Pomona College to the top spot of their “America’s Top Colleges Ranking 2015.” Coming in second was last year’s top college, Williams, and following in third is Stanford University. Finally, the first Ivy League university on the listing is Princeton, ranking only fourth. Private colleges and universities dominate the ranking’s top spots. The top ranking public university is the University of California, Berkeley sitting in at No. 35. Forbes is the first of the national rankings to release their lists.
There was quite a bit of movement in the top 10 from last year’s ranking. Pomona College moved up eight spots from eight to one, while Stanford, Swarthmore, Princeton all moved down one spot from last year, moving to the second, third, and fourth slots. Yale and Harvard moved up a spot each, to fifth and sixth place. The biggest drop since last year’s top 10 was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, that dropped five places to No. 10. Swarthmore College also had a significant drop from No. 3 last year going down four points to No. 7 this year. Amherst College moved up one spot to No. 9.
Private schools lead the rankings, and public universities only make an appearance in the mid-thirties. Forbes lists the top three public colleges as University of California, Berkeley at 35, University of Virginia at 36, and the College of William & Mary at 39. Both the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary are among the country’s oldest institutions of learning.
Forbes also put the spotlight on U.S. Service Academies, they did better in the rankings than public colleges. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point ranking just out of the top 10 at 11, while U.S. Naval Academy was 27 and the U.S. Air Force Academy was 38.
The top universities heavily represent the Northeast, while the West Coast comes in second with the Midwest and Sunbelt seeing few schools ranking high. The top 10 has two placements outside the Northeast, Stanford and Pomona in California. The first inland university in the Midwest is the University of Notre Dame in Indiana at 13, and the first university in the South to rank is Duke University in North Carolina at 22.
There are more universities ranked higher that emphasize science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) than liberal arts colleges except one, Pomona College, which topped the entire ranking. The top schools have much in common; they barely have any students transferring out with high retention rates, low student-to-faculty ratios, students graduate within the prescribed four years, the schools give good financial aid packages leaving students with low debt upon graduating. All the schools in the top 10 all have long traditions and were founded between the 1600s and the 1800s.
This year Forbes marked the second year of #MyTopCollege. “Students, alumni and faculty” take to social media and answer, “what makes their school the tops.” Forbes received fewer votes than their inaugural ranking with “7,000 tweets and 4,000 Instagram posts.” This year’s winner was Sweet Briar College, the small liberal arts women’s college was nearly shutdown earlier this year before being resurrected because of the students, faculty and alumni that were dedicated to their college.
Forbes published additional ranking lists as companions to America’s Top 100 Colleges including Best Value Colleges, Top 50 ROI Colleges, Top 25 Public Colleges, and Liberal Arts Colleges. Forbes also profiled regional rankings, for the top 25 colleges in the northeast, Midwest, west and south.
Forbes is riding the wave of ranking the best value colleges, determining Return on Investment, ROI and making it the focal point of their methodology. Forbes worked with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) to determine “What are students getting out of college,” and that was the basis of their methodology in ranking 650 colleges down to the top 100. The ranking looks at “Student Satisfaction (25%), Post-Graduate Success (32.5%), Student Debt (25%), and Graduation Rate (7.5%).
This year’s methodology factored social media in for the first time and is the only ranking to utilize social media in determining a college’s ranking. Also new to deciding the rankings is Forbes looking at a 3-year moving average to determine a “school’s overall score,” averaging the scores for 2015, 2014, and 2013.
Forbes’s “America’s Top Colleges Ranking 2015” top 10:
- 1 Pomona College
- 2 Williams College
- 3 Stanford University
- 4 Princeton University
- 5 Yale University
- 6 Harvard University
- 7 Swarthmore College
- 8 Brown University
- 9 Amherst College
- 10 Massachusetts Institute of Technology