The Best Colleges rankings offer data on more than 1,800 schools – including some that changed categories this year.
A college degree is one of the most important investments an individual can make, according to a recent study by the White House's Council of Economic Advisers.
The earnings gap between a college and a high school graduate continues to widen, with those earning bachelor's degrees making nearly $1 million more in their lifetime compared with those with only a high school diploma, the report found.
While the overall return on a college education nears historic levels, the report suggests there are variations on that return, depending on the school and program a student selects. To find the college that's the best fit, prospective students and their families can turn to the 2017 U.S. News Best Colleges rankings, released today.
The 2017 edition includes data on more than 1,800 colleges and universities, of which 1,374 are ranked. Under the rankings methodology, eligible schools are divided into different categories such as National Universities and Regional Colleges, and evaluated on up to 15 indicators of academic excellence, such as freshman retention, faculty resources and graduation rates – to name a few.
Among National Universities, which emphasize research and offer bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs, Princeton University in New Jersey once again took No. 1, Massachusetts' Harvard University remained in second place and the University of Chicago moved up one spot to tie with Yale University in Connecticut for third place.
Other changes in this year's top 10 include California's Stanford University and New York's Columbia University moving down one spot from a tie at fourth to a tie at No. 5. The University of Pennsylvania traveled up one notch to No. 8, while California Institute of Technology dropped two places to No. 12.
One of the largest leaps in the 2017 National Universities rankings came from Howard University in the District of Columbia, which climbed 11 spots from a tie at No. 135 to a tie at No. 124. Similarly, Kansas State University rose by 11 places, traveling from a tie at No. 146 to a tie at No. 135.
National Liberal Arts Colleges, which focus on undergraduate education and award at least half of their degrees in fields such as humanities or social sciences, didn't see any movement among the top two spots. Massachusetts' Williams College took the No. 1 spot again, and Amherst College, also in Massachusetts, stayed at No. 2. Pennsylvania's Swarthmore College dropped one spot to a tie at No. 4 with Vermont's Middlebury College, while Massachusetts' Wellesley College climbed up to No. 3.