While many of the highest-ranked schools only shifted one or two places, if at all, it's a different story outside of the top 20.
Pennsylvania State University, for instance, climbed nine spots in the National Universities rankings, moving from a tie at No. 46 to No. 37, where it tied with Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. Pitzer College in California also gained ground among National Liberal Arts Colleges, moving from a tie at No. 43 to No. 35.
College choice isn't just about rankings, though. Cost is also a major factor for most students. President Barack Obama emphasized the importance of finding a school that offers a good value during his recent college affordability bus tour. Students can use the U.S. News Best Value Schools rankings to determine which colleges will give them the most bang for their buck.
This ranking looks at three variables – the ratio of quality to price, the percentage of all undergrads who receive need-based grants and the average discount off a school's total cost – to determine which institutions offer the best value in each ranking category.
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Schools on this list don't always appear affordable, so students need to look beyond sticker prices. Vassar College in New York, the No. 6 Best Value School in the Liberal Arts Colleges category, listed 2012-2013 tuition, room and board, fees and expenses at $59,860, but awarded need-based grants to nearly 60 percent of students that year. The average cost after receiving those funds was $19,470, an average discount of $40,390 off the total cost of attendance.
Other exclusive U.S. News rankings and lists include A-plus Schools for B Students, Top Public Schools and schools with the highest four-year graduation rate.
Regardless of whether students are aiming for an Ivy League education or want to attend a more affordable public university, the Best Colleges rankings provide critical information to help narrow the search.
Looking for full rankings information? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find all published data points, including student debt and employment statistics.