Pitt remains among top public universities in two different rankings


After making a big jump last year in the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings, Pitt stayed in the top 20 for public universities this year, even though the magazine tweaked how it ranked some criteria for the list.

Pitt also once again topped the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education ranking of top public universities in the Northeast. The rankings of nearly 800 U.S. colleges, which were released on Sept. 17, placed Pitt 25th among all public universities and 93rd overall.   

U.S. News rankings

The key Pitt rankings in this year’s U.S. News & World Report list, which was released Sept. 14, were:

  • Public universities: 19th (out of 209), tied with Florida State, Maryland and the University of Washington, and just ahead of Penn State at 23. Pitt ranked 18th last year.

  • All national universities: 58th (out of 389), tied with the same three public colleges and Syracuse University. Last year, Pitt ranked 57th.

“This recognition speaks to the University of Pittsburgh’s success in tackling some of society’s greatest challenges,” Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said in Pittwire. “It is an accomplishment hard won by our faculty students and staff — and at a time when their scholarship and brilliance has never been more needed or more important.”

U.S. News added two new indicators — for 5 percent of the ranking — on graduating students’ debt, including the average total federal debt among students graduating with bachelor’s degrees and the share of that group who took out federal loans. 

Pitt has started several new programs in the past two years to help reduce student debt, including the Pitt Success Pell Match, which directly matches any federal Pell grant Pitt students receive, and Panthers Forward, in which participating seniors receive up to $5,000 toward their eligible federal student loan balance upon graduation and they are urged to “pay it forward” by donating to the program later.

To make room for the new indicators on student debt, U.S. News gave less weight in the rankings to SAT/ACT scores, high school class standing and alumni giving rates. It also dropped its practice of listing colleges as unranked if they don’t use SAT or ACT scores in their admissions processes, which added more than 60 schools to the rankings.

More and more schools, including Pitt, are deciding to make standardized entrance tests optional for admittance in fall 2021, because of the issues raised with taking the tests during the pandemic. It’s not clear yet whether that change will become permanent.

Pitt also ranked 30th in Best Colleges for Veterans, which lists the top-ranked schools that make pursuing a college education more affordable for veterans.

Other rankings for Pitt, based on peer assessment surveys, included:

  • Most Innovative Schools: 50, out of 83 schools

  • Best Undergraduate Business Programs: 38, out of 511

  • Best Undergraduate Computer Science Programs: 52, out of 481

  • Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs: 53, out of 206

Overall, the top national universities were the same as last year: Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, with MIT and Yale tied for fourth.

The top public schools list was led by UCLA, UC–Berkeley, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, and University of North Carolina.

Two of Pitt’s regional campuses also made the U.S. News Best Colleges list.

Pitt–Bradford was ranked 19th and Pitt–Johnstown was ranked 31st in Regional Colleges North, out of 57 schools.

Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education

These annual rankings are based on 15 factors across four main categories, according to the Wall Street Journal: 40 percent from student outcomes, including graduates’ salaries and debt; 30 percent from academic resources, including how much the college spends on teaching; 20 percent from student engagement, including whether students feel prepared to use their education in the real world, and 10 percent from the learning environment, including the diversity of the student body and academic staff.

When compared to all of the other schools, Pitt’s Oakland campus ranked 93rd on outcomes, 138th on resources and 111th on engagement.

The University of Michigan was rated the top public college, while Harvard, MIT, Yale, Stanford, Brown and Duke (these two tied for fifth) led the list overall.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 412-648-4294.


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