America’s Top Colleges 2017 – Forbes

The No. 1 FORBES Top College 2017 is  Harvard University, followed by Stanford University and Yale University. The highest ranking  public school (non-military) is University of California, Berkeley; the U.S. Naval Academy is the top military academy. The University of Chicago is the premier institution in the Midwest and Duke University earns the title of best school in the South. 

Harvard University is traditionally the gold standard of American higher education. For the first time since we first started this annual ranking of the nation’s best universities and colleges 10 years ago, Harvard lives up to its reputation and lands as the best in the U.S.

Harvard rises to the top spot on our rankings after placing fourth last year and sixth in 2015. The move illustrates a winning performance in each of the four categories that we take into consideration: quality academics and student satisfaction, on-time graduation rates, low student debt and high earning potential and career success.

See full methodology here

The nation’s oldest higher education institution graduates 87% of its seniors in four years and 97% in six years, and those graduates see a mid-career median salary of $123,000 and a median debt of some $7,500. A high count of the Forbes 400 billionaires and seven U.S. presidents are Harvard alumni.

Last year’s No. 1 school, Stanford University, moves to No. 2 in the rankings, followed by Yale University, Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Other schools widely considered to be America’s finest still rank high – Duke University (No. 8), Pomona College (No. 10), University of Chicago (No. 16) and Amherst College (No. 17).

There are some surprises here too: The U.S. Naval Academy (No. 20) edges out the U.S. Military Academy (No. 24), and among flagship state universities, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (No. 38) pushes past University of Virginia (No. 40) in the top 50. And there are some hidden jewels too: among liberal arts colleges, Harvey Mudd College (No. 18 — see profile on HM) and Grinnell College (No. 57) rise to the top 9% of all institutions.

Important Trends

The FORBES 10th annual Top Colleges ranking speaks directly to four important trends:

  • The disproportionately high number of Ivy League and other highly selective private coastal schools at the highest rungs.
  • The rise of juggernaut STEM and research-oriented universities vs. small prestigious liberal arts colleges.
  • Public schools, overall, rose in the ranks while their private counterparts took a small hit.
  • Strong performances on the part of all the service academies.

Students Are Consumers 

To our way of thinking, before you become a college student, you need to think like a graduate. Our goal is to showcase the colleges and universities that deliver the best return on your education investment dollars.

College may be the best years of your life but costs continue to escalate. According to the College Board, tuition, fees, room and board for the 2016-17 school is $20,090 annually for public schools for in-state students, a rise of 2.7% over the 2015-2016 school year. It’s $35,370 for out-state students and $45,370 for private schools for 2016-17, both up 3.4%. Americans owe some $1.4 trillion in student loan debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The central logic behind this year’s ranking is no different than years past, but part of the methodology and some of the data sources have been reexamined and revamped at our 10th anniversary to better align this ranking with what Forbes values most: superior return on investment; high impact, leadership and success; and a first-rate student-consumer experience. Because of shifts in the data and weightings, our 2017 ranking looks a bit different than the past.

STEM or specialized focus schools fare considerably better. The California Institute of Technology makes the top 10 this year for the first time (No. 6), jumping 33 spots, and Harvey Mudd College arrives at No. 18, up 41 spots. Babson College, which only offers degrees in entrepreneurship, lands at No. 74 (up from No. 104) and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology is No. 116 (up from No. 183). This ranking continues to highly favor military academies, who offer a first-rate education experience in exchange for service. It is not, however, as kind to many liberal arts schools, many of which provide excellent academic challenges and rewards and a high sense of purpose and satisfaction as well as well-rounded career options.

America’s Top Colleges 2017 – Forbes