Visualized: The Best Universities in America
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Visualized: The Best Universities in America

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Visualized: The Best Universities in America

The United States is home to many world-class universities like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, which boast innovative research programs, famous alumni, prestigious awards, and students and faculty from all over the world.

But which schools are actually the best ones in America?

This ranking uses data from U.S. News & World Report to rank America’s 50 best universities from the Ivy League to public institutions. Additionally, this visual shows the average tuition and acceptance rate of each school.

The Methodology

Here’s a look at how different categories are scored in the ranking. It is worth noting that U.S. News relies on each university’s independent reporting of data and information and does not standardize or corroborate the reported information themselves.

How categories are weighted:

  • Graduation & Retention Rates = 22%
  • Undergraduate Academic Reputation = 20%
  • Faculty Resources = 20%
  • Financial Resources per Student = 10%
  • Graduation Rate Performance = 8%
  • Student Selectivity for Fall Entering Class = 7%
  • Social Mobility = 5%
  • Graduate Indebtedness = 5%
  • Average Alumni Giving Rate = 3%

The Top Schools

Ivy League universities are often assumed to be the top schools in America, but in reality, only four of the eight make the top 10.

Here’s a closer look:

RankUniversityAcceptance RateSchool TypeTuition and Fees (Private or Public Out-of-State)In-State Tuition (Public Institutions Only)State
#1Princeton University4%Private, Ivy League$57,410N/ANew Jersey
#2Massachusetts Institute of Technology4%Private$57,986N/AMassachusetts
#3Yale University 5%Private, Ivy League$62,250N/AConnecticut
#3Harvard University 4%Private, Ivy League$57,261N/AMassachusetts
#3Stanford University4%Private$56,169N/ACalifornia
#6University of Chicago6%Private$62,940N/AIllinois
#7University of Pennsylvania 6%Private, Ivy League$63,452N/APennsylvania
#7Johns Hopkins University8%Private$60,480N/AMaryland
#9California Institute of Technology4%Private$60,864N/ACalifornia
#10Northwestern University7%Private$63,468N/AIllinois
#10Duke University6%Private$63,054N/ANorth Carolina
#12Dartmouth College 6%Private, Ivy League$62,430N/ANew Hampshire
#13Brown University 6%Private, Ivy League$65,146N/ARhode Island
#13Vanderbilt University7%Private$60,348N/ATennessee
#15Washington University in St. Louis13%Private$60,590N/AMissouri
#15Rice University9%Private$54,960N/ATexas
#17Cornell University 9%Private, Ivy League, Land-Grant $63,200N/ANew York
#18Columbia University 6%Private, Ivy League$65,524N/ANew York
#18University of Notre Dame15%Private$60,301N/AIndiana
#20University of California, Los Angeles11%Public$44,830$13,804California
#20University of California, Berkeley15%Public$43,980$14,226California
#22Georgetown University12%Private$62,052N/ADistrict of Columbia
#22Carnegie Mellon University14%Private$61,344N/APennsylvania
#22Emory University13%Private$57,948N/AGeorgia
#25University of Southern California13%Private$64,726N/ACalifornia
#25New York University13%Private$58,168N/ANew York
#25University of Michigan--Ann Arbor20%Public$57,273$17,786Michigan
#25University of Virginia21%Public$56,837$21,381Virginia
#29Wake Forest University25%Private$62,128N/ANorth Carolina
#29University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill19%Public$37,558$8,998North Carolina
#29University of Florida30%Public, Land-Grant $28,658$6,380Florida
#32Tufts University11%Private$65,222N/AMassachussets
#32University of California, Santa Barbara29%Public$44,204$14,450California
#34University of California, San Diego34%Public$46,374$15,348California
#34University of California, Irvine29%Public$43,739$13,985California
#36Boston College19%Private$64,176N/AMassachussetts
#36University of Rochester41%Private$61,678N/ANew York
#38University of California, Davis49%Public$44,494$14,740California
#38University of Texas at Austin29%Public$40,996$11,752Texas
#38University of Wisconsin--Madison60%Public, Land-Grant $39,427$10,796Wisconsin
#41Boston University19%Public$62,360$18,229Massachussetts
#41William & Mary37%Public$46,625$23,970Virginia
#41University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign6%Public, Land-Grant $35,110$17,138Illinois
#44Tulane University10%Private$62,844N/ALouisiana
#44Brandeis University39%Private$62,722N/AMassachussets
#44Case Western Reserve University30%Private$62,234N/AOhio
#44Northeastern University18%Private$60,192N/AMassachusse
#44Georgia Institute of Technology18%Private$32,876$11,764Georgia
#49The Ohio State University57%Private, Land-Grant $35,019$11,936Ohio
#49University of Georgia40%Private, Land-Grant $30,220$11,180Georgia

One of the Ivies, Columbia University, actually dropped 16 spots from last year’s ranking due to a scandal involving misreported statistics by the university, which was exposed by one of its own professors. There have been critiques of the U.S. News & World Report ranking since, as it doesn’t provide a uniform set of standards for the universities, but lets them determine how they score their categories themselves.

Among the top 10 schools admittance is very competitive, and none of the acceptance rates surpass the 7% mark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, and Caltech are among the most difficult universities to get into, with only 4% of applicants receiving that exciting acceptance letter. On the flip side, the universities of Illinois and Wisconsin, for example, accept 60% of all applicants.

Types of Universities

A few more things to know—there are eight private schools in the U.S. that have earned the distinction of “Ivy League,” due to their history and prestige. A number of schools are also classified as land-grant universities—built on land which was essentially given to them by the U.S. government. This was in an effort to provide higher education to lacking communities across the country, and there is at least one in every state.

These are the U.S.’ eight Ivy League Institutions:

  • Princeton University
  • Yale University
  • Columbia University
  • Brown University
  • Harvard University
  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth University
  • University of Pennsylvania

Beyond these prestigious academies, there are many high caliber institutions like The Ohio State University and the University of Wisconsin—both of which are land-grant universities.

Among the top 50, there are another four land-grant universities:

  • University of Florida
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Illinois
  • Cornell University

There is ripe controversy, however, surrounding land-grant universities, as, in many cases, the U.S. government funded these institutions through expropriated indigenous land.

The Cost of an American Education

U.S. college tuition is famous for being unaffordable. Combining all the federal and private loans in the country, the total student debt comes out to $1.75 trillion and the average borrower owes $28,950.

Here’s a look at how tuition breaks down on average:

best universities

The most expensive school in America is Columbia University, with the cost of admission coming out to a whopping $65,524, with some estimates showing even higher rates for the 2022/2023 academic year. The least expensive among the top 50 is the University of Florida at $6,380 for in-state tuition—more than 10x cheaper than Columbia.

But many Americans may soon see their college loans forgiven. The Biden administration’s initiative to cancel student debt will roll out any day now and will be available on federal loans for select qualifying individuals. It has the potential to provide 40 million people with as much as $20,000 in debt forgiveness.

And given that American universities make up eight of the 10 best universities in the world, perhaps the price tag will be worth it.

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Demographics

Visualizing Population Density Patterns in Six Countries

These maps show the population density of several countries, using 3D spikes to denote where more people live.

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beautifully rendered population density maps of six major countries

As of 2022, Earth has 8 billion humans. By 2050, the population is projected to grow to 10 billion.

In the last 100 years, the global population more than quadrupled. But none of this growth has been evenly spread out, including within countries.

This series of 3D maps from Terence Teo, an associate professor at Seton Hall University, renders the population density of six countries using open-source data from Kontur Population. He used popular programming language R and a path-tracing package, Rayshader, to create the maps.

France and Germany: Population Density Spikes and Troughs

Let’s take a look at how the population spreads out in different countries around the world. Click the images to explore higher-resolution versions.

This image shows a map of France and its population spread.

France is the world’s 7th largest economy and second-most-populous country in the EU with 65 million people. But a staggering one-fifth of the French population lives in Paris and its surrounding metro—the most populous urban area in Europe.

Many residents in the Paris metropolitan area are employed in the service sector, which makes up one-third of France’s $2.78 trillion gross domestic product.

This image shows a map of Germany and its population spread.

Unlike France, Germany has many dense cities and regions, with Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, and Cologne all having over a million residents. Berlin is the most populated at 3.5 million residents in the city proper, and 6 million in the wider urban area.

That said, the relatively recent reunification of West and East Germany in 1991 meant that post-WWII growth was mostly concentrated in West Germany (and West Berlin).

Italy and Chile: Coast to Coast

In Italy, another phenomenon affects population density and urban development—a sprawling coastline.

This image shows a map of Italy and its population spread.

Despite having a large population of 59 million and large metropolitan areas throughout, Italy’s population spikes are closer to the water.

The port cities of Genoa, Napoli, and Palermo all have large spikes relative to the rest of the country, as does the capital, Rome. Despite its city center located 15 miles inland from the sea, it extends to the shore through the district of Ostia, where the ancient port of Rome existed.

This image shows a map of Chile and its population spread.

Meanwhile in Chile, stuck between the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, population spikes corroborate with its many port towns and cities.

However, the country is more concentrated than Italy, with 40% of its residents congregating around the capital of Santiago.

Turkey and Canada: Marred by Mountains and Climes

Though Chile has difficulties with terrain, it is relatively consistent. Other countries have to attempt to settle many different climes—regions defined by their climates.

This image shows a map of Türkiye and its population spread.

Mountains to the south and east, a large, semi-arid plateau, and even a small desert leave few centers of urban growth in Türkiye.

Predictably, further west, as the elevation comes down to the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, population spikes begin to heighten. The largest of course is the economic and cultural hub of Istanbul, though the capital Ankara is also prominent with more than 5 million residents.

This image shows a map of Canada and its population spread.

In Canada, the Rocky Mountains to the west and freezing cold temperatures in the center and north account for the large country’s relative emptiness.

Though population spikes in Western Canada are growing rapidly, highly populous urban centers are noticeably concentrated along the St. Lawrence River, with the Greater Toronto Area accounting for more than one-sixth of the country’s 39 million people.

Increasing Urbanization

According to the World Bank, more than half of the world’s population currently lives in cities, and that trend is only growing.

By 2050, 7 out of 10 people are projected to live in cities. This congregation makes cities a beehive of productivity and innovation—with more than 80% of the world’s GDP being generated at these population centers.

It’s in this context that mapping and studying urban development becomes all the more important, particularly as policymakers try their hand at sustainable urban planning.

As Teo puts it:

“By showing where people are (and are not), they show us where political and economic power is concentrated, and perhaps where and who our governments represent.”

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