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The College-Ranking Wheels Keep on Turning

Sorry, America (or at least almost all of it). Your alma mater didn’t crack the Top 10 this year.

On Tuesday, U.S. News & World Report unveiled its 2014 rankings of the nation’s colleges and universities, this time with a handful of changes in its methodology. First, U.S. News assigned less weight to class rank, which dropped to 25 percent of the “student selectivity” indicator, from 40 percent. The change reflects the decreasing number of high schools that report students’ standing in their senior class to colleges, which has made the measurement less meaningful.

Meanwhile, the new rankings formula places more weight on the ever-important ACT and SAT scores, which rose to 65 percent of the student-selectivity indicator, from 50 percent. For those who are scribbling all of this down on a napkin, you should know that the overall weight of student selectivity fell to 12.5 percent of a college’s rank this year, from 15 percent.

The goal was to “emphasize outcomes” over inputs, Robert J. Morse, director of data research at U.S. News, said in a news conference on Monday. Outcomes, he said, now account for 30 percent of a college’s rank.

In the lists of national universities and national liberal-arts colleges, for instance, the weight of graduation and retention rates increased to 22.5 percent, from 20 percent. The magazine also expanded its “graduation performance indicator,” which measures the difference between predicted and actual graduation rates, to regional colleges and universities.

As a result of such changes, some colleges outside the top 10 percent saw their rankings rise or fall sharply. Mr. Morse cited the College of the Holy Cross and Pitzer College as “two winners” as as result of the changes in methodology.

You can read all about this year’s rankings, including a Top 10 little different from last year’s, here.

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