Best Colleges 2009

Kenneth Terrell
Harvard
Harvard University
Photo: AP

Harvard tops this year's list of America's Best Colleges from U.S. News & World Report. It's the first time since 1996 that the Cambridge, Mass., university is alone at the top of the National Universities category. Princeton and Yale come in second and third, respectively, while Amherst College and Williams College share the No. 1 spot on the Liberal Arts Colleges list.

More from USNews.com:


Top 2009 National Universities

Top 2009 Liberal Arts Colleges


Top 2009 Business Programs



This year, Harvard managed to beat perennial No. 1 Princeton by one 10th of a point in the reputation survey the magazine sends out to college administrators across the country, in addition to making slight improvements in some of the other statistical measures. Harvard, which has a nearly $35 billion endowment, made big news last December when it announced that it would increase the financial packages it offers to students from families that earn $180,000 or less. The move was a dramatic leap beyond the $60,000 threshold that other highly selective universities had been using to determine which students were eligible for the most generous assistance packages. In another PR boost for the nation's oldest university, last school year was also Harvard's first under the guidance of President Drew Gilpin Faust. Her predecessor, Lawrence Summers, left after making controversial remarks about women in the science disciplines.

The reputation survey that U.S. News sends to top college officials at each school counts for 25 percent of a college's ranking. The other 75 percent is based on quantitative data that assesses a college's performance in areas such as graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, financial resources, student selectivity, and alumni giving. Each year, the formula is reassessed to stay on top of recent developments in higher education. For example, just as Harvard and dozens of other colleges recently have made adjustments to become more accessible to families of lesser financial means, U.S. News has incorporated data about the proportion of low-income students a school enrolls into its ranking measurements.

These periodic methodology adjustments make flat year-to-year comparisons of a school's U.S. News ranking somewhat misleading. Nevertheless, alumni always tend to take note of which schools have gained an edge on their academic rivals. For example, in the National Universities list this year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology finished in fourth place, besting its West Coast rival, the California Institute of Technology, which landed in sixth place. Last year, Caltech held the edge with a fifth place ranking while MIT placed seventh. Part of the difference: MIT improved its faculty resources statistics slightly, while Caltech dipped there a little. (As in Olympic swimming, slightly better performance makes a big difference in results at this level of rankings.)

Over on the Liberal Arts Colleges list, this year the United States Military Academy was ranked 14th, besting its rival, the United States Naval Academy, which held the 22nd slot. Last year, Navy had the edge, finishing 20th while Army was 22nd.

Top 25 National Universities

Harvard
Harvard University
Photo: AP

1. Harvard University
Location
Cambridge, MA
2007 Total Enrollment
19,257
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$36,173
Application Deadline
1/1
Academic Calendar
Semester


2. Princeton University
Location
Princeton, NJ
2007 Total Enrollment
7,334
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$34,290
Application Deadline
1/1
Academic Calendar
Semester

3. Yale University
Location
New Haven, CT
2007 Total Enrollment
11,454
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$35,300
Application Deadline
12/31
Academic Calendar
Semester

MIT/
MIT
Photo: AP

4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Location
Cambridge, MA
2007 Total Enrollment
10,220
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$36,390
Application Deadline
1/1
Academic Calendar
4-1-4


4. Stanford University
Location
Stanford, CA
2007 Total Enrollment
19,782
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$36,030
Application Deadline
1/1
Academic Calendar
Quarter

University
University of Pennsylvania
Photo: Courtesy of U Penn

6. University of Pennsylvania
Location
Philadelphia, PA
2007 Total Enrollment
18,916
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$37,526
Application Deadline
1/1
Academic Calendar
Semester


6. California Institute of Technology
Location
Pasadena, CA
2007 Total Enrollment
2,133
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$34,437
Application Deadline
1/1
Academic Calendar
Quarter

Columbia
Columbia University
Photo: AP

8. Columbia University
Location
New York, NY
2007 Total Enrollment

22,655
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$39,326
Application Deadline
1/2
Academic Calendar
Semester


8. Duke University
Location
Durham, NC
2007 Total Enrollment
13,598
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$37,525
Application Deadline
1/2
Academic Calendar
Semester

8. University of Chicago
Location
Chicago, IL
2007 Total Enrollment
12,336
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$37,632
Application Deadline
1/2
Academic Calendar
Quarter

Dartmouth
Dartmouth College
Photo: AP

11. Dartmouth College
Location
Hanover, NH
2007 Total Enrollment
5,849
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$36,915
Application Deadline
1/1
Academic Calendar
Quarter


12. Northwestern University
Location
Evanston, IL
2007 Total Enrollment
18,028
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$37,125
Application Deadline
1/1
Academic Calendar
Quarter

12. Washington University
Location
St. Louis, MO
2007 Total Enrollment
13,382
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$37,248
Application Deadline
1/15
Academic Calendar
Semester

Cornell
Cornell University
Photo: AP

14. Cornell University
Location
Ithaca, NY
2007 Total Enrollment
19,800
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$36,504
Application Deadline
1/1
Academic Calendar
Semester


15. Johns Hopkins University
Location
Baltimore, MD
2007 Total Enrollment
19,737
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$37,700
Application Deadline
1/1
Academic Calendar
Semester

Brown
Brown University
Photo: AP

16. Brown University
Location
Providence, RI
2007 Total Enrollment
8,167
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$37,718
Application Deadline
1/1
Academic Calendar
Semester


17. Rice University
Location
Houston, TX
2007 Total Enrollment
5,243
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$28,996
Application Deadline
1/2
Academic Calendar
Semester

18. Emory University
Location
Atlanta, GA
2007 Total Enrollment
12,570
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$36,336
Application Deadline
1/15
Academic Calendar
Semester

University
University of Notre Dame
Photo: Courtesy of Notre Dame

18. University of Notre Dame
Location
Notre Dame, IN
2007 Total Enrollment
11,733
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$36,847
Application Deadline
12/31
Academic Calendar
Semester


18. Vanderbilt University
Location
Nashville, TN
2007 Total Enrollment
11,847
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$37,005
Application Deadline
1/3
Academic Calendar
Semester

21. University of California at Berkeley
Location
Berkeley, CA
2007 Total Enrollment
34,953
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
In-state: $8,932
Out-of-state: $29,540
Application Deadline
11/30
Academic Calendar
Semester

Carnegie
Carnegie Mellon University
Photo: AP

22. Carnegie Mellon University
Location
Pittsburgh, PA
2007 Total Enrollment
10,493
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$38,844
Application Deadline
1/1
Academic Calendar
Semester


23. Georgetown University
Location
Washington, D.C.
2007 Total Enrollment
14,826
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
$38,122
Application Deadline
1/10
Academic Calendar
Semester

23. University of Virginia
Location
Charlottesville, VA
2007 Total Enrollment
24,257
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
In-state: $9,300
Out-of-state: $26,900
Application Deadline
1/2
Academic Calendar
Semester

University
University of California at L.A.
Photo: Courtesy of UCLA

25. University of California
at Los Angeles

Location
Los Angeles, CA
2007 Total Enrollment
38,896
2008-2009 Tuition and Fees
In-state: $7,034
Out-of-state: $26,102
Application Deadline
11/30
Academic Calendar
Quarter

For the complete list of Best Colleges 2009, click here.