Rapid rise

May 22, 2021


By Matthew Dewald

You may have noticed that Richmond’s U.S. News & World Report ranking has risen significantly in recent years. Colleges and universities generally have a love-hate relationship with the annual rankings. They’re happy to boast a good ranking but are skeptical about the overall project. With that caveat aside, why has Richmond seen such dramatic improvement?

1.) Persistence factors

Richmond has invested in innovative programs in recent years that increase the likelihood that students who enroll will stay and graduate. The effectiveness of these programs is increasingly showing up in rising retention rates, graduation rates, and other measures. USNWR uses many of these same measures in its calculations.

2.) Faculty excellence

Close student-faculty relationships and mentoring are hallmarks of a Richmond education. Richmond has continued to invest in faculty excellence with competitive salaries and a long-standing commitment to small classes.

3.) Reputation gains

Each year, USNWR asks presidents, chief academic officers, and chief enrollment officers at national liberal arts universities to rank their peers. Shifts in long-held impressions are notoriously rare, and even incremental change is significant. UR has seen such change, improving its average peer assessment score by 5% since 2016.

Put another way: Fundamentals. While USNWR’s endless methodological tinkering often bumps schools around a little, Richmond’s steady rise has come from investing in programs that benefit students and the faculty who teach them, and from growing recognition of Richmond’s excellence by its peers.