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Graduation rates, student selectivity propel UVA in rankings

Bar chart showing UVA, represented by the Rotunda, at 25th in the US News & World Report rankings

Two years after tumbling out of U.S. News & World Report’s list of the nation’s top 25 universities and top three public universities, UVA is back in one of those slots. It tied with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh for No. 25 in the publication’s 2022 Best Colleges rankings, released in September.

UVA remains the fourth-best public university behind the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of Michigan.

Exactly how much college rankings matter to potential applicants isn’t clear. The same year UVA dropped to No. 28 on the 2020 list, application numbers soared to historic levels.

UVA scored best in graduation and retention rates. Here’s how the University compared with UCLA, Berkeley and Michigan in some of the top categories that make up the final scores.

Graduation and retention rates (counts for 22 percent of ranking score): UVA shined in this category, tying with multiple top-25 schools, including Yale, at No. 11. Berkeley and Michigan tied for No. 22. UCLA was No. 25. “As always, UVA performed especially well on the ranking factor for how well schools retain and graduate their bachelor’s degree-seeking students,” wrote Eric Brooks, principal data analyst at U.S. News in an email to Virginia Magazine.

Faculty resources (20 percent): This category considers class size and faculty salary, among other factors. UVA tied with Michigan for No. 37. UCLA was No. 34, and Berkeley was No. 62.

Undergraduate academic reputation (20 percent): For this category, administrators at peer institutions rated each school’s academic reputation. Out of 5 total points, UVA earned 4.3. UCLA scored 4.4; Michigan, 4.5; and Berkeley, 4.7.

Financial resources (10 percent): In this calculation of average spending per student, UVA came in at No. 41, tying with Michigan. UCLA ranked No. 18; Berkeley was No. 49.

Student selectivity (7 percent): Factoring in students’ standardized test scores and high school standings, UVA tied with Berkeley at No. 24. UCLA was No. 20, and Michigan was No. 31.

Social mobility (5 percent): This category measures the graduation rates of students who receive federal Pell Grants, which are designed for students with exceptional financial need. Out of 391 schools ranked on social mobility, UVA came in at No. 297, tying with Michigan. UCLA was No. 21; Berkeley, No. 82. UVA scored poorly in this category in part because a smaller number of the entering student body—about 13 percent—had received Pell Grants when compared with some other public schools, Brooks wrote.

In other rankings, UVA was No. 2 among public schools in The Princeton Review’s Best Value Colleges for 2021, behind Berkeley.

And in the Wall Street Journal’s 2022 College Rankings List, released in September, UVA landed at No. 55 among all colleges, down from No. 51 last year, and dropped to No. 12 from No. 10 among public institutions. Among public schools, Michigan came in first, followed by UCLA, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Berkeley. UVA was just behind No. 10 Purdue University and No. 11 University of Florida. The rankings consider four categories—student outcomes, such as alumni’s salaries and post-graduation debt; academic spending; student engagement; and the diversity of the student body and academic staff.