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September 17, 2023

U.S. News 2023 college rankings are out, and UCR surges

The university moved up 13 places in the overall rankings, and is No. 2 in the U.S. for social mobility

Author: J.D. Warren
September 17, 2023

Once again, U.S. News & World Report has named UC Riverside the No. 2 university in the nation for social mobility. UCR also climbed 13 spots in the overall rankings, to No. 76 among the top 435 private and public universities.

This is the second consecutive year that UCR has been ranked No. 2 in social mobility among all universities – public and private. It is the fifth year that U.S. News has featured a breakout category for social mobility, which considers the degree to which a university elevates its low-income graduates to a higher standard of living. The first three years, UCR was ranked No. 1 in the nation among all universities.

“This year’s rankings are further validation that UCR is the model for what the university of tomorrow should be,” said Chancellor Kim Wilcox. “Making another leap in the national rankings in the same year UCR was invited to join the Association of American Universities is further proof that we are meeting the needs of today’s students and of society at large."

U.S. News released its 2023-2024 Best Colleges list on Monday, Sept. 18. U.S. News Best Colleges is the nation’s most-watched college rankings list.

In its social mobility ranking, U.S. News aggregates two factors that assess the graduation rates of students who receive the Pell Grant, typically awarded to families earning less than $65,000 per year. The factors are Pell Grant six-year graduation rates and Pell Grant graduation rate performance, which considers grant recipients’ graduation rates relative to non-Pell Grant recipients’ rates. More than 50% of UCR’s students receive a Pell Grant.

UCR climbed from No. 89 to No. 76 in this year’s overall rankings, and is No. 36 among public universities. In U.S. News’ scoring, outcome measures account for more than 50% of a university's score. That includes graduation, retention, and Pell Grant numbers. Peer assessment is 20% of a university's score. Other scoring factors include faculty salaries and financial resources.

UCR moved up 16 spots to No. 25 in the “most innovative” subcategory, based on nominations from university presidents, provosts, and admissions deans.

UCR’s undergraduate School of Business program increased 16 positions from last year’s rankings, to No. 70, and the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering’s computer science program moved up two places to No. 56 in the nation. In a new category for undergraduate teaching, UCR’s School of Education ranked No. 62. Two other new rankings were for undergraduate psychology, with UCR No. 80, and undergraduate economics, No. 88.

In the overall list, Princeton was No. 1, MIT was No. 2, and Harvard and Stanford tied for No. 3. On the 2023-24 social mobility list, Cal State Long Beach was No. 1; last year it was ranked No. 3.

In the past few years, U.S. News has made major adjustments to its formula, to the benefit of categories in which UCR performs well. In 2019, social mobility was given greater overall weight, in addition to getting its own category. For this year's rankings list, the definition of social mobility was changed to include first-generation graduation rates.

Several factors were eliminated from this year's methodology, including proportion of graduates who have or had federal loans, high school class standing, alumni giving average, terminal-degree faculty, and class size. 

UCR Assistant Vice Chancellor for Institutional Research Scott Heil said UCR is likely to further climb in the U.S. News rankings as U.S. News places less value on high school standing and alumni giving. Also, Heil said, U.S. News will have to consider how to handle SAT and ACT scores – still factored in U.S. News’ current formula - in the coming years.

“With many institutions adopting or maintaining test-optional or test-blind admissions policies, data availability will likely continue to present a challenge for U.S. News’ standardized testing indicator,” Heil said.

Fall is college rankings season, with major publications across the U.S. publishing “best college” lists. It’s been another good season for UC Riverside, with Washington Monthly naming UCR No. 7 among 442 universities nationwide for Pell Grant student performance. Forbes magazine ranked UCR No. 31 among public universities, and the Princeton Review named UCR No. 23 on its Top 50 Best Value Colleges and No. 20 among public schools in its Making an Impact list.

In March, The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UCR No. 1 in the nation for retention rates among universities with at least-50% Pell undergraduates.

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