Powell Library at evening, UCLA

Credit: Elena Zhukova/University of California

Powell Library, UCLA, at evening. UCLA is once again the top public school in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report, with UC Berkeley at No. 2.

2021 Best Colleges rankings

Overall Public National
UCLA 1 20
UC Berkeley 2 22
Santa Barbara 6 30
Irvine 8* 35*
San Diego 8* 35*
Davis 11 39
Riverside 34 88
Merced 40* 97*
Santa Cruz 40* 97*

 

Social Mobility   Ranking
Riverside   1
Irvine   2
Santa Cruz   4
Merced   5
UCLA   13*
Santa Barbara   13*
Davis   15
San Diego   33
Berkeley   76

*denotes a tie with another institution

Five UCs stand among the 10 best public universities in the country and all nine undergraduate campuses rank among the top 40 in the 2021 Best Colleges rankings, published today (Sept. 14) by U.S. News & World Report.

For the first time ever, all nine undergraduate campuses also ranked among the top 100 universities in the country, public or private. This is a landmark accomplishment for UC’s youngest campus, UC Merced, which has vaulted up the rankings in the 16 years since it welcomed its first freshman class.

“We are pleased that U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings recognize UC as a world-class institution that offers access to hundreds of thousands of students across California and beyond,” said UC President Michael V. Drake, M.D.

UC campuses also landed in the top tier of the nation’s universities when evaluated based on social mobility, or how well they serve low-income students, with four campuses claiming the top 5 spots — UC Riverside (No. 1), UC Irvine (No. 2), UC Santa Cruz (No. 4) and UC Merced (No. 5).

“UC Merced is redefining momentum,” said UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz. “While 2020 has been a difficult year in so many ways, we have nevertheless seen record enrollment, a rise in external rankings of the institution, and our research is increasingly recognized by NSF and other funding agencies and is now also heading to Mars. We are proud to join our sister campuses as the best of the best of higher education in America.”

UCLA and UC Berkeley once again ranked as America’s No. 1 and No. 2 public universities, while UC Santa Barbara (No. 6) and UC Irvine (No. 8) climbed this year, joining UC San Diego (tied with UC Irvine at No. 8) in the public university top 10. UC Davis ranked No. 11. UC Riverside also moved up a few spots, to No. 34, while UC Merced, the university’s newest campus, tied UC Santa Cruz at No. 40 to round out the top 40.

With each campus placing in the public top 40, and the national top 100, the UC system’s ability to deliver a world-class education has never been more apparent.

U.S. News & World Report releases its Best Colleges rankings each fall. Now in its 36th year, the rankings assess U.S. bachelor’s degree-granting institutions. The latest edition evaluated 1,452 institutions across 17 measures of academic quality. Measures include retention and graduation rates, social mobility, faculty resources and academic reputation. For the first time this year, it also included graduate indebtedness. Roughly 54 percent of UC undergraduates graduate without any student loan debt, according to the annual UC accountability report.

Data for the rankings was pulled from fall 2019 and earlier, so the COVID-19 pandemic did not affect school data submission. To account for the pandemic, the rankings reduced emphasis on admissions and alumni giving data.

U.S. News & World Report’s social mobility rankings evaluated both public and private universities. UC Riverside topped the ranking for the second straight year, and each UC undergraduate campus made the top 100. Social mobility measures a school’s ability to graduate Pell Grant recipients, typically students from families who earn less than $50,000 though most Pell Grant money goes to families who earn less than $20,000 annually.

“We are proud that UC continues to reach students from diverse social and economic backgrounds, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college,” said Drake.

The U.S. News rankings add to the UC system’s list of accolades this year. UC also received high marks from the Academic Ranking of World Universities, CNBC’s Make It rankings for alumni earnings and Washington Monthly’s measure of contributions to the public good.