NYC colleges score in U.S. News' rankings

Columbia University and New York University retained their No. 4 and No. 32 rankings, while Stony Brook climbed 10 spots in U.S. News & World Report's annual college report.

New York's private schools scored high in the U.S. News & World Report's college rankings, released on Tuesday. Despite changes in ranking methodology that put more emphasis on student outcomes and less on incoming students' class standing, top schools moved little from past years, but lower-profile universities made impressive gains.

Columbia University retained its No. 4 ranking among national universities—the highest of any New York City institution—and New York University stayed at No. 32.

Barnard College ranked 32nd among national liberal arts colleges, but an impressive second among all liberal arts colleges for best value—behind Amherst College in Massachusetts. Barnard was the only college in the five boroughs to rank in the Top 100, but came in behind Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, at No. 13.

"We've been focusing on keeping tuition increases as low as possible and it's nice to see that's been reflected in at least part of the rankings," said Barnard College President Debora Spar. "Particularly with Obama's new student focus and the general economic trends of the country, making sure that college remains accessible to everyone is a priority."

Further down in the Top 100, the Stony Brook campus of the State University of New York rose 10 spots from last year's ranking, to No. 82. Stony Brook was also the only public university in the New York metro area rank in the Top 100 national universities—a category for institutions that offer undergraduate, masters and Ph.D. programs and emphasize faculty research.

"I hope it's really based on fundamentals—we're adding great students, we're spending money, we're planning to hire 250 new faculty over the next five years," said Stony Brook's president, Samuel Stanley. "We don't allow ourselves to be guided by the rankings, but some of the things they measure are a core value for us—class sizes and great faculty, for instance."

Two other local schools made small gains in national rankings. Fordham University moved up one slot, to No. 57. Yeshiva University, a private, Jewish-affiliated research institution, clocked in at No. 47, up from 50 last year.

"We're of course pleased that Yeshiva University is annually recognized as a top-tier institution of higher learning," said Morton Lowengrub, the school's provost and senior vice president of academic affairs, in a statement, adding that the university's mission to provide an education in Jewish learning "certainly puts us in a unique position among the other universities on this list."

Among regional colleges in the north, Cooper Union held the top spot, despite having announced a plan to end free tuition for students. (The ranking refers to institutions that focus on undergraduate education but grant less than half of their degrees in the liberal arts.) The dean of Cooper Union's engineering school, Teresa Dahlberg, attributed its continued No. 1 ranking to the school's close relationship between students and faculty, and project-based curriculum, in which students from the school's three programs (art, architecture and engineering) work together. "It's this kind of innovation that gets students excited and working together, as opposed to a traditional education in art, engineering or architecture," Ms. Dahlberg said.

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