US News ranks Williams No. 1 liberal arts college in country

September 16, 2015 by Sophie Chatas, Executive Editor

Last week, U.S. News and World Report ranked Williams as the No. 1 National Liberal Arts College for the 13th consecutive year. This year, Williams topped No. 2 Amherst and No. 3 Swarthmore.

The list remains relatively unchanged from last year, with the top four spots occupied by the same schools. However, this year, Bowdoin, Pomona and Middlebury joined Wellesley in a tie for the fourth spot. Both Bowdoin and Pomona moved up from a tie at No. 5, and Middlebury improved on its previous seventh-place ranking.
The College also earned top spots in several other categories, including No. 4 in Best Undergraduate Teaching, a tie for No. 3 in High School Counselor Rankings, No. 3 in Best Value Schools and No. 1 in Best Colleges for Veterans.

The main focus of the ranking system is academic excellence, which is measured using 16 factors such as graduation and retention rates.

“The thing about those rankings is they rely very heavily on graduation rate,” Sarah Bolton, dean of the College said. “The students that we admit, and to whom we promise a set of opportunities, by and large those students are supported and stay through and graduate. That’s the really valuable way to make use of College’s resources, to take care of students, to help them find their way academically, to support them personally so that they’re able to complete their education.”
U.S. News also considers faculty in its rankings, which Bolton also considers important in the daily lives of students.

“We have a large faculty, larger than any other school our size by a significant fraction,” Bolton said. “It’s not just about small classes, but the variety of courses students can access. We’re really privileged to have both breadth and depth. That’s very unusual for a college of our size.”

The U.S. News lists include 1,376 ranked schools, as well as data on other unranked schools. This year, the report includes a new Most Innovative Schools list, which ranks the schools that have made the most novel improvements in several areas, including technology, facilities and academics.

In the Forbes ranking of America’s Top Colleges, which was published in July, the College lost its previous No. 1 spot to Pomona and ranked second over Stanford at No. 3 and Princeton at No. 4. Unlike U.S. News, Forbes combines liberal arts colleges and national universities in one comprehensive list.

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