Education Lab

Fresno State’s graduation rate puts school No. 1 in U.S. News and World Report ranking

Fresno State has been named the top public university in the country when it comes to reaching its graduation rate goals, according to the latest rankings from U.S. News and World Report.

The “graduation rate performance” category compares the university’s actual performance – a near-60 percent graduation rate – to its “predicted performance” based on student demographics and other factors, including spending per student. Another indicator for the category is the proportion of students who receive Pell Grants. At Fresno State, more than 60 percent of students are eligible for the federal program, which helps low-income students pay for college.

While Fresno State was named the No. 1 public university in that category, overall, it was ranked No. 220 out of about 300 of America’s largest universities. The top universities include Princeton University, Harvard University and the University of Chicago, according to the annual rankings released Tuesday.

A different ranking released by Washington Monthly last month put Fresno State much higher, naming it the 25th-best university in the country alongside Ivy League institutions. Washington Monthly is critical of U.S. News and World Report, and claims it uses “crude and easily manipulated measures of wealth, exclusivity, and prestige to evaluate schools.”

Fresno State’s U.S. News and World Report ranking this year looks different than in the past because the school’s reclassification as a doctoral university moved it from the Western regional rankings to the national universities list. Fresno State joins only three other California State Universities on the national list: San Diego State (No. 146), CSU Fullerton (No. 202) and San Francisco State (No. 256.)

“To be evaluated in the same league as universities like Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Stanford speaks to the bold level of educational opportunity and quality we offer the students of the Central Valley,” Fresno State President Joseph Castro said in a statement. “The leap we took into the national rankings is like moving into the academic equivalent of the top athletic conference.”

UC Merced is celebrating its debut on the same national list – outscoring Fresno State. The school, which opened 12 years ago, is ranked No. 152 overall. UC Merced is the youngest university ranked.

UC Merced also ranked high in the “graduation rate performance” category, landing at No. 8. UC Merced has a graduation rate of 66 percent.

Fresno Pacific University was tied for No. 44 among regional universities-west, behind Sonoma State University and ahead of Humboldt State University.

Mackenzie Mays: 559-441-6412, @MackenzieMays