Released Monday, the report named the University the fourth-best public institution in the country, trailing the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, Los Angeles; and the University of Virginia.
On top of overall college rankings, the publication also rates specific programs. The Ross School of Business was rated the nation’s fourth-best undergraduate business school, falling from the number two spot from last year. The College of Engineering maintained its seventh-place position in the ranking of best undergraduate engineering programs.
In recent years, the University has dropped slightly in the U.S. News rankings. It was ranked 26th in 2009 and 24th in 2006.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald noted the University’s tendency to drop and fall on the list by small margins, but said these changes are not a significant factor in determining its standing as a top institution.
“What’s good for one student is not necessarily the best place for the next student,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s just no number one school for everybody, no matter what the rankings say.”
Fitzgerald added that some of the University’s main areas of focus in building a high-quality learning experience are maintaining smaller class sizes, facilitating collaboration between different disciplines and increasing funding for top faculty, further noting there is a wide range of factors that determine which school is best for a particular student.
The U.S. News report is calculated by weighing factors such as undergraduate academic reputation, faculty resources, selectivity, alumni giving and financial resources.
Though a widely read source for information regarding university performance relative to peer institutions, critics claim the rankings focus too heavily on faculty pay or new facilities rather than financial aid or diversity.
This year, The New York Times released its own ranking system via The Upshot, the publication’s data-driven analysis platform.
Their version, released the day before the U.S. News report, rated the nation’s “top economically diverse colleges” by using an index based on the number of freshmen who come from low-income families and the net price of attendance for low- and middle-income families.
The list rated colleges with four-year graduation rates higher than 75 percent in 2011-2012. The University’s graduation rate in 2011-2012 fell just short of that threshold, meaning it did not receive a rating.
Only three public institutions were ranked on this list since the majority of large public universities do not meet the 75-percent threshold. The trade publication Inside Higher Ed said many public universities actually serve more low-income students than their private counterparts rated in the survey.
Vassar College topped the list with a College Access Index of 3.1, followed by Grinnell College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Though the University was not featured on the list, Kalamazoo College placed in the top 15, while schools such as the University of Notre Dame and Northwestern University received negative College Access indices.
Fitzgerald said the number of University students who qualify for Pell Grants has increased in recent years, but the University has also been working under the restrictions of Proposal 2, the 2006 statewide ballot measure that banned the use of race — among other factors — in admissions and was recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The University has earmarked $1 billion from the ongoing Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign for student support, but tuition has continued to rise in recent years. In fall 2011, 63 percent of incoming freshmen reported family incomes exceeding $100,000, according to the University’s Office of the Registrar.
University President Mark Schlissel also made economic diversity a priority in his inaugural speech Friday.
“It is imperative that we keep tuition affordable and build the financial resources that allow students from across the full spectrum of society to attend Michigan, regardless of their economic circumstances,” he said.
This story has been updated to include a comment from a University spokesperson and additional context on higher education rankings.
Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly classified Notre Dame’s athletic conference.
Daily News Editor Sam Gringlas contributed reporting.