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1. Category names have been changed. To make the rankings more understandable and to reduce confusion, for the 2011 Best Colleges we changed many of the ranking category names. This year, schools are designated National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities, and Regional Colleges. The two regional groups previously were labeled "Universities-Master's" (now called Regional Universities) and "Baccalaureate Colleges" (now called Regional Colleges) to reflect the official Carnegie classification of universities whose highest degree is a master's and four-year colleges that specialize in professional as well as liberal arts degrees. In addition, we changed the category name of the Liberal Arts Colleges to the National Liberal Arts Colleges. The labels "Universities-Master's" and "Baccalaureate Colleges" had regularly puzzled both readers and the schools themselves. For instance we were regularly asked both by readers and those at some higher education institutions whether the Universities-Master's category represented rankings of master degree programs at any of the schools. The rankings were not of any master's program at any of the schools. The label Baccalaureate Colleges was also unclear because colleges don't identify themselves using that terminology and many people did not understand how the word Baccalaureate could be used to describe a particular type of college. The number of institutions in the Regional Universities and Regional Colleges did not change, and the schools are still ranked in four regions—North, South, Midwest, and West—because they tend to draw heavily from surrounding states.
Which measure of quality is most important? First, remember that each measure that U.S. News uses in its rankings captures some important dimension of the academic program. The weight (expressed as a percentage) tells you the relative importance that U.S. News places on each measure. For national universities and national liberal arts colleges, the U.S. News ranking formula gives the most weight (22.5 percent) to peer assessment scores a combination of the academic peer score at 15.0 percent and the high schools counselor rating score at 7.5 percent, because a diploma from a distinguished college helps graduates get good jobs or gain admission to top-notch graduate programs. (Synovate, a Chicago-based opinion-research firm, collected the peer assessment data.) For these schools, the faculty resources and the graduation and retention measures are also weighted relatively highly (20 percent). For regional universities and regional colleges, the ranking formula gives the peer assessment and the graduation and retention measures a weight of 25 percent each. Graduation and retention are given a higher weight (compared with the national universities and national liberal arts colleges categories) because the ranking formula for the national universities and national liberal arts categories includes an additional indicator related to them: graduation rate performance. This indicator was given a weight of 7.5 percent. We recommend that prospective students consider which indicators are especially important to them and look at those individual elements as well as the school's overall rank. (The website's search and sort capabilities make it simple to locate schools that are strong in a particular area.)
U.S. News & World Report has ranked the University of Richmond at No. 33 on this years list of top liberal arts colleges, tying Trinity College of Hartford, Conn., and propelling the school to its highest ranking since it moved from the Best Masters Universities category in 2006.
Last year, Richmond ranked 40th on the U.S. News list, tied with Franklin & Marshall College, Sewanee-University of the South and Union College. The school was 34th in 2006, its first year on the Best Liberal Arts Colleges list after spending 11 consecutive years atop the best masters universities category for colleges in the south.