Duke tops Carolina colleges in US News & World Report rankings for 2018

Jane Stencil, The News & Observer

Photo by the News & Observer

U.S. News & World Report has declared that Princeton University is the top college in the land, but Carolina colleges have plenty to brag about in the magazine’s latest ranking.

The 2018 “Best Colleges” ranking comes as high school seniors start the process of applying to college. The ranking doesn’t change much from year to year: Princeton has garnered the No. 1 position for seven straight years. Other schools moved up or down a few spots, largely based on multiple ties among universities – a factor that can skew the numbers at the lower end.

The magazine rates universities based on hundreds of data points and what it says are 15 measures of academic quality. It produces a number of lists, including The “Best National Universities,” which is the most cited college ranking.

U.S. News also breaks down other universities based on mission or regional focus or best financial value, or for business students or engineering students. There’s even a list called “A+ Schools for B Students.”

The rankings have been criticized for fueling a competition that puts too much emphasis on elite colleges in the United States. U.S. News editors emphasize that their analysis primarily takes into account student outcomes such as graduation and retention rates — measures that represent a solid higher education investment for students and their parents.

Duke University again was in the top 10. UNC-Chapel Hill ranked 30th nationally, but fifth among public universities for the 17th consecutive year. N.C. State University had a significant jump, moving up 11 spots on the national list.

Here’s how Carolina colleges and universities fared overall:

Best national universities

In North Carolina, Duke University, at 9th, moved down one notch from last year, while Wake Forest University (27th) and UNC-Chapel Hill (30th) ranked high on the list. N.C. State University ranked 81st, while UNC Charlotte was 198th, East Carolina was 207th and Gardner-Webb was 223rd.

In South Carolina, Clemson University was ranked 76th in national universities, while the University of South Carolina tied with six others at 103rd.

Best national liberal arts colleges

Davidson College, near Charlotte, ranked 10th. Salem College (117th), UNC Asheville (141st), Guilford College and Warren Wilson College (tied for 160th) and Meredith College (163rd) also made the list.

Best regional universities (South)

These schools have undergraduate and master’s programs, but few doctoral offerings. Elon University was first in the South.

Also ranked: Appalachian State (9th), UNC Wilmington (14th), Queens University of Charlotte (20nd), Campbell University (27th), Wingate University (32nd), Western Carolina University (38th), Lenoir Rhyne University (61st), N.C. Central University (80th), Methodist University (85th), Elizabeth City State University and Pfeiffer University (tied for 87th), UNC Pembroke (102nd) and Winston-Salem State University (tied for 106th).

Best regional colleges (South)

This looks at schools that focus almost entirely on undergraduate programs. High Point University was first in the South.

Also ranked: Catawba College (4th), the University of South Carolina-Aiken (6th), Barton College and Belmont Abbey College (tied for 8th), the University of South Carolina-Upstate (14th), Lees-McRae College and University of Mount Olive (tied for 19th), Brevard College (21st), Mars Hill University (24th), Bennett College (25th), the University of South Carolina-Beaufort (37th), Greensboro College (44th), N.C. Wesleyan College (46th), Chowan University and St. Augustine’s University (tied for 50th).

The rankings can be found at usnews.com/colleges.

Jane Stencil writes for The News & Observer, where this article originally ran. Information was contributed by Carolina College Bound editor Heidi Finley. Send questions or ideas to Finley at hfinley@charlotteobserver.com.