Forbes names Stanford University America’s Top College for 2016/17

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Forbes Magazine was again the first list to release their national ranking of American colleges and universities. Forbes released on July 7, 2016, their ninth annual ranking of America’s Top 100 Colleges placing the most selective school Stanford University in the top spot. The ranking heavily relies on return on investment with the subheading the 600+ schools worth the investment. The ranking looks at the top colleges but also includes separate lists for Top Public and Private Colleges, Top Liberal Arts Schools, and Top STEM Colleges.

Former Top 100 Colleges Williams College remains in second place, followed Princeton University, which moved up to third, the top Ivy League university on the list. Harvard University moves up two to fourth, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology the greatest gainer moved up five to round out the top five. The remaining top 10 has Yale, which dropped a spot to sixth, former top college, and Pomona dropped to seventh place. The last remaining schools in the top ten are Brown University, which remained at eighth, Wesleyan University, a new entry to the top ten and Swarthmore College that fell three spots to tenth.

According to Forbes the ninth edition of the ranking has a theme of “higher ed in transition.” The top schools shifting from the East Coast to the West Coast, with Stanford University being the top college in the country and the most selective university. Stanford receives the most applications and admits the least percentage of students. According to Forbes, Stanford “emerged as the nation’s preeminent university,” while “students all over the world are increasingly drawn to the nowness of the West Coast.”

There is still an ongoing struggle between Liberal Arts colleges versus large research universities emphasizing, STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math. There are 51 liberal arts colleges in the top 100 colleges more than previous years, and liberal arts colleges that never cracked the top 10 or top 25 now made the cut.

Still, older private schools are monopolizing the top spots in the list, showing not much is indeed changing. As Forbes notes, “All the Ivys do very, very well: seven of the eight Ivy League schools and five of the eight “Little Ivies” make the top 20.” Younger schools in the west, however, are moving up in the rankings.

Forbes like US News weighs graduation and retention rates high in the listing’s methodology. The top schools are also the most expensive, and as Forbes noted the top 50 cost an average $59,000 each academic year. Still, these expensive universities offer good financial aid packages that leave their low graduate debt.

These top ranking schools have the right combination of “age, location, endowment and low debt for students.” Like US News, Forbes is riding the wave of ranking the best value colleges, determining Return on Investment, ROI. Forbes worked with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) to determine “What are students getting out of college.”

Forbes Top Colleges top ten:

1. Stanford University (3)
2. Williams College (2)
3. Princeton University (4)
4. Harvard University (6)
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (10)
6. Yale University (5)
7. Pomona College (1)
8. Brown University (8)
9. Wesleyan University
10. Swarthmore College (7)

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

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