Harvard University remains Forbes America’s Top College in 2018

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

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In their annual ranking of America’s Top 100 Colleges 2018 Forbes keeps America’s most coveted Ivy League and oldest university Harvard University in their top spot on the ranking. Wikipedia Commons

Harvard University remains king on the top of Forbes Magazine national ranking of American colleges and universities for the second year. On August 21, 2018, Forbes released their 11th annual ranking of America’s Top 100 Colleges with America’s most coveted and oldest Ivy League university, Harvard University remaining in the top spot. This year’s top public school is the University of California, Berkeley coming at an unprecedented number 14. The ranking heavily relies on return on investment with the subheading the 600+ schools worth the investment. The ranking looks at the output from an education rather than input, so it does not factor in SAT scores or admission statistics. The ranking looks at the top colleges but also includes separate lists for Top Public and Private Colleges, top colleges in the country’s four regions, and top liberal arts and STEM colleges.

This year’s overall top three still represents high school seniors’ university wish list but there were many changes within the top ten. Still, Ivy League and major prestigious research universities dominate the top ten. Harvard remains on top but Stanford and Yale Universities switch their spots, with Yale moving up and 2016 top school Stanford moving down to three. As Forbes pointed out in 2017 when Harvard first topped the ranking, Harvard “is the gold standard of American higher education” and it “lives up to its reputation and tops the list as the best in the U.S.”

The nation’s most selective school Stanford drops to third place. Yale moves up to the runner-up spot at second place. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) moves up one to fourth place, and Princeton University continues its descent dropping again one place from fourth to fifth. As for the rest the California Institute of Technology, Caltech remains in sixth after moving up 33 spots in 2017. The University of Pennsylvania stays at seventh, Brown University moves up one top eighth, while Dartmouth College moves into the top ten at ninth. The South’s only school in the top ten, Duke University rounds out the top ten.

In recent years, Liberal Arts Colleges dominated Forbes’s overall ranking, topping the list in 2014 with Williams College and in 2015 with Pomona College and keeping the top ten split with the Ivies up to 2016. The 2015 former top college Pomona drops out of the top falling to 19th place. The drop is part of the trend against liberal arts colleges, while the emphasis is trending towards the STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math majors. Forbes, however, claims

“Our list shows elite liberal arts schools holding their own.”

Forbes’ America’s Top Colleges overall top ten:

1 Harvard University (1)

2 Yale University (3)

3 Stanford University (2)

4 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (5)

5 Princeton University (4)

6 California Institute of Technology (6)

7 University of Pennsylvania (7)

8 Brown University (9)

9 Dartmouth College

10 Duke University (8)

The Ivies dominate the top 10 and see the return to the spotlight along with the “highly selective private” universities. STEM and “research-oriented universities” are gaining in the ranking over Liberal Arts Colleges, notably with MIT and Caltech. Forbes also notes bigger public universities are faring better than some smaller private schools. Military academies are losing ground in Forbes ranking with the United States Naval Academy losing its spot as the top public school and placing within the top 20, this year it is 31, while former top public school the U.S. Military Academy is number 27. The Northeast “dominates” the top 25 with 17 colleges, while the West has four and the Midwest only has two colleges represented and only one in the South.

Forbes also ranks separately, private and public colleges and the best amongst the country’s four regions, Northeast, South, Midwest, and West. The “gold standard” Harvard also tops the private colleges’ list, where all six of the eight Ivies place in the top ten. The ten in the private colleges’ list mirrors the overall top ten, with Dartmouth entering the top ten of the private colleges’ list.

1 Harvard University (1)

2 Yale University (3)

3 Stanford University (2)

4 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (5)

5 Princeton University (4)

6 California Institute of Technology (6)

7 University of Pennsylvania (7)

8 Brown University (9)

9 Dartmouth College

10 Duke University (8)

The new top public college is the University of California, Berkeley beating the military academies, the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Military Academy, who have held the top spots since 2014. The number two-spot is also a non-military school with the University of Michigan — Ann Arbor. The public colleges top ten still remains divided almost evenly between military academies and flagship and research state schools with only four out of the five U.S. military academies represented, they all rank lower and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy drops out of the top ten from ninth to 14th. Meanwhile, the University of North Carolina — Chapel Hill, number 47 overall, enters the top ten at ninth.

1 University of California — Berkeley (3)

2 University of Michigan — Ann Arbor (4)

3 United States Military Academy (2)

4 United States Naval Academy (1)

5 University of Virginia (5)

6 United States Air Force Academy (6)

7 College of William & Mary (10)

8 University of California — Los Angeles (8)

9 University of North Carolina — Chapel Hill

10 United States Coast Guard Academy (7)

The top liberal arts colleges are losing in the over rankings. The rise of STEM subjects have pushed down liberal arts colleges that ranked on top just a few years ago, with Williams and Pomona topping the overall ranking in 2014 and 2015 and now, neither are in the top ten. Last year, Pomona was the top liberal college; it has fallen to number four, while Williams assumes the top spot and is at 11th place, just out of the top ten overall.

1 Williams College

2 Amherst College

3 Bowdoin College

4 Pomona College (1)

5 Harvey Mudd College

6 Swarthmore College

7 Claremont McKenna College

8 Bates College

9 Middlebury College

10 Wesleyan University

This year the top STEM college remains MIT, who is fourth overall. Forbes defines STEM colleges where 50 percent of students take STEM subjects. The majority, 14 are located in the Northeast, 6 in New York alone, there are five in the Midwest and West but only two in California, Caltech and Harvey Mudd, who are in second and third place respectively, and only one in the South Georgia Tech at 12th place.

1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

2 California Institute of Technology

3 Harvey Mudd College

4 Johns Hopkins University

5 United States Naval Academy

6 United States Air Force Academy

7 Carnegie Mellon University

8 Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

9 United States Coast Guard Academy

10 Lehigh University

The regional ranking with the highest median on “the overall FORBES Top Colleges list” is the Northeast where the Ivies reside. As Forbes highlights the region is “Home to many of the nation’s oldest and most renowned universities, the Northeast is an academic goldmine. Ivy League colleges and those Liberal Arts Colleges that belong to the little Ivies fill most of the top ten. Ivy Columbia University drops from the top ten to 11, while Georgetown University, who is 12th overall enters at ninth.

1 Harvard University (1)

2 Yale University (2)

3 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (4)

4 Princeton University (3)

5 University of Pennsylvania (5)

6 Brown University (6)

7 Dartmouth College (7)

8 Williams College (8)

9 Georgetown University

10 Cornell University (10)

In the South, Duke University is again the top “Southern College.” There are three North Carolina schools in the top ten the same as Virginia but Virginia takes top honors with the most schools in the top 25. Duke is also the only southern school also appearing in the overall top ten. Although there is some movement in the South’s top ten, it retains the same colleges.

1 Duke University (1)

2 Rice University (2)

3 Vanderbilt University (3)

4 University of Virginia (6)

5 Washington and Lee University (4)

6 Davidson College (5)

7 College of William & Mary (7)

8 University of North Carolina — Chapel Hill (10)

9 Emory University (9)

10 Wake Forest University (8)

In the Midwest, the top college is the University of Chicago, who ranks at number 18 overall down two from last years. The list represents a mix of top-tier universities and liberal arts colleges, but the top ten only has two public schools represented. The liberal arts colleges are seeing their rankings fall, while there is one new entry to the top ten Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, who is 53rd overall.

1 University of Chicago (1)

2 Northwestern University (3)

3 University of Notre Dame (2)

4 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (6)

5 Washington University in St. Louis

6 Carleton College (5)

7 Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

8 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (10)

9 Grinnell College (8)

10 Oberlin College (7)

Stanford University dominates the Western colleges, the country’s most selective university and most coveted tops the list by a long shot. The western rankings’ top two are the only colleges in the overall top ten. The top ten consists of the same colleges as last year but in a different order, they represent a mix of private, public top-tier universities and private liberal arts, and STEM colleges, however, the liberal arts colleges and military academies are losing ground.

1 Stanford University (1)

2 California Institute of Technology (2)

3 University of California, Berkeley (6)

4 Pomona College (3)

5 Harvey-Mudd College (5)

6 Claremont McKenna College (4)

7 University of Southern California (9)

8 United States Air Force Academy (7)

9 University of California, Los Angeles (10)

10 Scripps College (8)

Forbes like US News weighs graduation and retention rates high in the listing’s methodology.

Forbes grades each college into four categories “quality academics and student satisfaction, on-time graduation rates, low student debt and high earning potential and career success. 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.” Most importantly, however, is to find the college that is right for you. As Forbes expresses, “Can you picture yourself thriving there? If yes, then you have probably found your school.”

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

Written by

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University) is a Professional Librarian (CBPQ) & historian. Former editor @ History News Network & reporter @ Examiner.com.

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