The main entrance to the Stony Brook University West Campus...

The main entrance to the Stony Brook University West Campus is shown on Jan. 5, 2022. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Stony Brook, Adelphi, Farmingdale State College and NYIT climbed the ranks in revamped 2023-2024 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings, benefiting from new criteria giving more weight to educational outcomes for low-income and first-generation students, while eliminating factors such as alumni giving and small classes. 

According to U.S. News & World Report, the changes to methodology were the most significant in its 40-year history.

Stony Brook University's rise to 58 from 77 "is the highest rank ever for a SUNY institution," school officials said in a news release.

The college is now tied with the University of Connecticut among national universities. To be considered in the national universities category, schools must "offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master's and doctoral programs and must be committed to producing groundbreaking research," according to the U.S. News website.

U.S. News & World Report's rankings, while remaining highly influential, have drawn sharp criticism in recent years over the criteria and data used in evaluations. While some prestigious professional schools such as Yale Law have stopped providing data, most undergraduate institutions continue to participate.

Hofstra University's rating fell to 185 from 166 in national universities. The university said its ranking suffered by elimination of small classes in assessments, and use of older data that didn't reflect recent improvements in retention and graduation rate, diversity and financial support for the neediest students.

In a statement, Hofstra said the revamped rating system "provides more evidence of the fallacy of identifying and ranking 'best' colleges."

Noting that the new methodology resulted in average changes of 20 places up or down in rankings, Hofstra added: "These rankings suggest remarkable and logic-defying fluctuations in the quality of national universities from one year to the next, using a formula and data that are impossible to replicate to assess accuracy." 

While prestigious private institutions' top rankings remained relatively stable, public universities saw double-digit hikes as their mission of educating a diverse community gained traction in the assessments. Stony Brook also rose to 26 from 31 among public universities and ranked 12 among national universities for its social mobility — which measures the educational outcomes for first-generation and low-income students.

In a statement about its rising rank, Stony Brook cited "an increase in its 6-year graduation rate from 68% in 2016 to 78% in 2023, and the most economically challenged students at Stony Brook — those who receive Pell grants — graduate at a rate of 80%." 

In the regional colleges (North) rankings, where the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy ranks third, Farmingdale State College rose to 16 from 24th last year. 

In rankings of national universities, Adelphi rose 19 spots to 163, tying with Montclair State University and Rowan University in New Jersey. It also rose 85 spots in its social mobility rankings, to 55 from 140. 

"Over the past eight years, we've undertaken strategic work to transform students' lives, support underserved communities, focus on affordability, promote academic distinction, and expand our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging," Christine M. Riordan, president of Adelphi, said in a statement. "The results of this work are now being recognized with significant rankings moves and the arrival of Adelphi's largest-ever first-year class this fall."

LIU-Post in Brookville ranked 369 out of 439 national universities. 

In the regional universities (North) category, New York Institute of Technology rose a spot, to 21 from 22, tying with CUNY Hunter College, and now ranks second among private universities in the metropolitan area. Among other CUNY schools, Baruch College ranked 9th regionally, and John Jay College ranked 17th. Among all public and private universities in the state, NYIT ranked 10th.

“The rankings continue to underscore our unwavering commitment to the quality of the student experience at New York Tech,” said NYIT President Hank Foley in a statement.

Molloy University ranked 50th in the regional universities (North) category and SUNY Old Westbury ranked 96th. St. Joseph's University in Brooklyn ranked 45th.

Best Colleges assesses nearly 1,500 U.S. four-year bachelor’s degree-granting institutions on as many as 19 measures such as graduation and retention rates, Pell graduation rates, peer assessments, faculty research, financial resources per students and student debt. 

According to the U.S. News & World Report, its new criteria included first-generation graduation rates and proportion of college graduates earning more than those with only a high school diploma. The new first-generation rankings were based on graduation rates of federal loan recipients who entered college between fall 2011 and fall 2013.

U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges for 2023-2024

Top ranked national universities —

1. Princeton

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

3. Harvard, Stanford and Yale

6. The University of Pennsylvania

7. California Institute of Technology and Duke University

9. Brown, Johns Hopkins and Northwestern

12. Columbia, Cornell and University of Chicago

Top ranked liberal arts colleges —

1. Williams College

2. Amherst College

3. United States Naval Academy

4. Pomona, Swarthmore and Wellesley

7. United States Air Force Academy

8. United States Military Academy at West Point

9. Bowdoin College and Carleton College

11. Barnard College, Claremont McKenna College, Grinnell College, Middlebury College, Wesleyan University

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