UVA is back at No. 3 in U.S. News’ annual rankings of public universities, tying with the University of Michigan for the spot after dropping to No. 4 three years ago. They follow University of California, Berkeley and University of California, Los Angeles, both at No. 1.
UVA remains the 25th best national university, along with Michigan, New York University and the University of Southern California.
The University’s rise comes amid increased scrutiny of rankings. In August, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said rankings that rely, at least in part, on reputation do “little more than Xerox privilege,” attributing the quote to an HBCU president and without naming U.S. News, which does include a peer survey in its calculations.
UVA, however, also did well in at least one category that does matter by Cardona’s estimation. Among the public universities ranked first through fifth, UVA had the highest graduation rate among low-income Pell Grant recipients. Rounding out the top five public universities were the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Florida, tied at No. 5.
And, as U.S. News’ chief data strategist Robert Morse notes, families and students continue to “find value” in the rankings. “We strive to provide them with data and information to help make important decisions, using the rankings as one factor in their college search,” Morse said in a statement.
Here’s how UVA compared to Berkeley, UCLA and Michigan in the top categories that make up the final score:
Graduation and Retention (counts for 22 percent of ranking score): UVA has long been a stronger contender in this category and tied with multiple Top 25 schools, including Stanford and Yale, at No. 11. Berkeley came in at No. 24; UCLA at No. 25; and Michigan at No. 17.
Faculty Resources (20 percent): This category considers class size and faculty salary, among other factors. UVA was No. 35; Berkeley, No. 53; UCLA, No. 28; and Michigan, No. 53.
Undergraduate Academic Reputation (20 percent): This category comes from peer assessment survey scores. Out of five, UVA earned 4.3. Berkeley earned 4.7. UCLA and Michigan tied with 4.4.
Financial Resources (10 percent): This total calculates average spending per student. UVA tied with Michigan at No. 44. Berkeley ranked No. 47; UCLA, No. 17.
Student selectivity (7 percent): U.S. News considers students’ standardized test scores and high school standings for this category. UVA ranked high among top public universities at No. 18. Berkeley followed at No. 24; UCLA, No. 84; and Michigan, No. 33.
Social mobility (5 percent): In this category, U.S. News considers the graduation rate of Pell recipients and compares it to graduation rates of students who do not receive Pell Grants. It then “adjusts to give significantly more credit to schools who enrolled larger Pell student proportions,” the publication says. UVA has historically done poorly in this category, partly because it has fewer Pell recipients than some other public schools. That was the case again this year, according to U.S. News. UVA was No. 361, behind Berkeley at No. 105; UCLA at No. 46; and Michigan at No. 326.