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While some rankings of universities and colleges in the USA are available by region (i.e., North, South, Midwest, West), most are carried out on a national level rather than by state. The information given below is therefore a general guide for students researching universities and colleges in the US, and students should look for schools from the state they are interested in within these general rankings.

A whole industry has arisen focused on the ranking of universities and colleges in the USA, with the majority of these rankings focused on bachelor's and master's degree programs. There are two # types of rankings: rankings of institutions and of programs in particular fields.

National and international organizations such as US News & World Report, The Princeton Review, The Washington Monthly, BusinessWeek and the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) based in Shanghai, #, regularly publish general rankings designed to identify the "best" graduate and undergraduate institutions according to quality and value. In some cases, universities and colleges are also ranked according to their institution type: for example, US News & World Report has separate ranking of liberal arts colleges, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and specialty schools. Less "official" rankings can also be found in Rugg's Recommendations on the Colleges, Consumer's Digest, and in student-based resources like StudentsReview or College Jolt.

Rankings of programs look at and compare the individual programs of US universities and colleges. The most commonly ranked programs are business and engineering. Some of these have rankings in additional publications, such as Forbes, Financial Times and Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. But there are many more programs for which you can also find rankings in the publications that rank institutions. Rankings that focus on graduate rather than undergraduate programs can also be useful if the school offering the master's program also offers an undergrad program; then these rankings can help you choose where to pursue your bachelor's.

Other sources of information for university and college program ranking are professional associations: these organizations sometimes publish online reports of student surveys on various schools and programs, which provide still more school or program "rankings." These associations often offer awards and honors for teaching excellence, and looking at who they have honored can also be used to supplement your 'ranking' of US universities and colleges. As well, schools and programs are often specifically ranked each year by their respective industry-specific journals, and you may want to scan more general journals about university education in America (such as Education Week) to see which schools are mentioned and what is said about them. This kind of news may not be ranking per se, but the information is yours to use and interpret.

Each of these sources, however, uses its own set of criteria for ranking schools and programs. In the case of the controversial Gourman Report (which looks at undergrad programs in all fields), the author specifically refuses to disclose his methodology. How then should all these rankings be interpreted?

First, the ranking reports often come with detailed data to support conclusions, and while data collection may be criticized, the editors of these reports usually make an effort to ensure that statistics are comparable. So the reports can be used by you to compare universities on the basis of the data provided.

Second, remember that all university and colleges rankings in the USA have one thing in common: they are a list of institutions which might suggest a school that you had not considered or perhaps even heard of. You can then expand your list of universities to be researched in more detail.

However, beware of judging a school based on rankings alone. University and colleges rankings in the USA are important, but there are other important factors to consider. Schools that are less prominent may have a program that suits your needs better than any nationally ranked schools. Often times, lesser known regional universities and colleges have the strongest relationships with local industries and employers. Once you gather all this information, you are in a good position to create your own university and colleges rankings.

Below is a list indicating the range of different rankings international students can consult about universities and colleges in the US. These rankings include general academic ranking and rankings according to a variety of special interests.

U.S. News and World Report: College Rankings

Kiplinger's 100 Best Values in Public Colleges

Washington Monthly College Guide

Community College Week's # 100 Associate's Degree and Certificate Producers

Asian-Nation: The Best Colleges for Asian Americans

Black Enterprise's # Colleges for African Americans

Hispanic Magazine: # 25 Colleges for Latinos

John Templeton Foundation: Colleges That Encourage Character Development

Mother Jones: # 10 Activist Schools

New Mobility: Disability-Friendly Colleges

OEDb's Online College Rankings

Princeton Review's The Best Colleges Ranked by Students

Young America's Foundation # Ten Conservative Colleges

Sierra magazine Green College Guide

PC Magazine: # 20 Wired Colleges
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