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In 2008, Forbes.com began publishing an annual list of America's Top Colleges.[1] Post-graduate success (alumni salaries from PayScale and data from the federal Department of Education) constitutes 35% of the score. Student debt levels constitute 20% of the score. Student experience (retention rates reported by the Department of Education and data from Niche) constitutes 20% of the score. Graduation rates constitute 12.5% of the score. Academic success (using both the percentage of a school's student body that goes on to obtain doctorate degrees, and those students who have won one of a diverse array of prestigious academic awards) constitutes 12.5%. Public reputation is not considered, which causes some colleges to score lower than in other lists. A three-year moving average is used to smooth out the scoring.

Starting in 2013, four schools that had admitted to misreporting admissions data were removed from the list for two years. The four removed colleges were Bucknell University, Claremont McKenna College, Emory University, and Iona College.[2]

Rankings

Forbes rated Princeton the country’s best college in its inaugural (2008) list.[3] West Point took the top honor the following year.[4] Williams College was ranked first both in 2010 and 2011, and Princeton returned to the top spot in 2012.[5][6][7] In 2013 and 2016, Stanford occupied the No. 1 spot, with elite liberal arts schools Williams and Pomona College topping the rankings in the intervening years.[8][9][10][11][12][13] Since 2017, the magazine has ranked Harvard as the best college in America.

Starting in 2013, four schools that had admitted to misreporting admissions data were removed from the list for two years. The four removed colleges were Bucknell University, Claremont McKenna College, Emory University, and Iona College.[2]

Forbes rated Princeton the country’s best college in its inaugural (2008) list.[3] West Point took the top honor the following year.[4] Williams College was ranked first both in 2010 and 2011, and Princeton returned to the top spot in 2012.[5][6][7] In 2013 and 2016, Stanford occupied the No. 1 spot, with elite liberal arts schools Williams and Pomona College topping the rankings in the intervening years.[8][9][10][11][12][13] Since 2017, the magazine has ranked Harvard as the best college in America.

America’s Top Colleges (Top 50)[14][15][16]
Institution 3yr.Avg. 2017 2018 2019
Harvard University 1 1 1 1
Stanford University 2 2 3 2
Yale University 3 3 2 3
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 4 5 4 4
Princeton University 5 4 5 5
University of Pennsylvania 7 7 7 6
Brown University 8 9 8 7
California Institute of Technology 7 6 6 8
Duke University 9 8 10 9
Dartmouth College 10 12 9 10
Cornell University 13 15 13 11
Pomona College 14 10 19 12
University of California, Berkeley 19 29 14 13
Columbia University 14 14 15 14
Georgetown University 16 21 12 15
University of Chicago 17 16 18 16
Northwestern University 22 28 20 17
University of Notre Dame 22 26 21 18
America’s Top Colleges (Top 50)[14][15][16]