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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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Countries

Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

How many democracies does the world have? This visual shows the change since 1945 and the top nations becoming more (and less) democratic.

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Charted: The Number of Democracies Globally

The end of World War II in 1945 was a turning point for democracies around the world.

Before this critical turning point in geopolitics, democracies made up only a small number of the world’s countries, both legally and in practice. However, over the course of the next six decades, the number of democratic nations would more than quadruple.

Interestingly, studies have found that this trend has recently reversed as of the 2010s, with democracies and non-democracies now in a deadlock.

In this visualization, Staffan Landin uses data from V-DEM’s Electoral Democratic Index (EDI) to highlight the changing face of global politics over the past two decades and the nations that contributed the most to this change.

The Methodology

V-DEM’s EDI attempts to measure democratic development in a comprehensive way, through the contributions of 3,700 experts from countries around the world.

Instead of relying on each nation’s legally recognized system of government, the EDI analyzes the level of electoral democracy in countries on a range of indicators, including:

  • Free and fair elections
  • Rule of law
  • Alternative sources of information and association
  • Freedom of expression

Countries are assigned a score on a scale from 0 to 1, with higher scores indicating a higher level of democracy. Each is also categorized into four types of functional government, from liberal and electoral democracies to electoral and closed autocracies.

Which Countries Have Declined the Most?

The EDI found that numerous countries around the world saw declines in democracy over the past two decades. Here are the 10 countries that saw the steepest decline in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Lost
🇭🇺 Hungary0.800.46-34
🇵🇱 Poland0.890.59-30
🇷🇸 Serbia0.610.34-27
🇹🇷 Turkey0.550.28-27
🇮🇳 India0.710.44-27
🇲🇱 Mali0.510.25-26
🇹🇭 Thailand0.440.20-24
🇦🇫 Afghanistan0.380.16-22
🇧🇷 Brazil0.880.66-22
🇧🇯 Benin0.640.42-22

Central and Eastern Europe was home to three of the countries seeing the largest declines in democracy. Hungary, Poland, and Serbia lead the table, with Hungary and Serbia in particular dropping below scores of 0.5.

Some of the world’s largest countries by population also decreased significantly, including India and Brazil. Across most of the top 10, the “freedom of expression” indicator was hit particularly hard, with notable increases in media censorship to be found in Afghanistan and Brazil.

Countries Becoming More Democratic

Here are the 10 countries that saw the largest increase in EDI score since 2010:

CountryDemocracy Index (2010)Democracy Index (2022)Points Gained
🇦🇲 Armenia0.340.74+40
🇫🇯 Fiji0.140.40+26
🇬🇲 The Gambia0.250.50+25
🇸🇨 Seychelles0.450.67+22
🇲🇬 Madagascar0.280.48+20
🇹🇳 Tunisia0.400.56+16
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka0.420.57+15
🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau0.410.56+15
🇲🇩 Moldova0.590.74+15
🇳🇵 Nepal0.460.59+13

Armenia, Fiji, and Seychelles saw significant improvement in the autonomy of their electoral management bodies in the last 10 years. Partially as a result, both Armenia and Seychelles have seen their scores rise above 0.5.

The Gambia also saw great improvement across many election indicators, including the quality of voter registries, vote buying, and election violence. It was one of five African countries to make the top 10 most improved democracies.

With the total number of democracies and non-democracies almost tied over the past four years, it is hard to predict the political atmosphere in the future.

Want to know more about democracy in today’s world? Check out our global breakdown of each country’s democratic score in Mapped: The State of Global Democracy in 2022.
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