University of the Pacific has been named among the top private universities in California, according to U.S. News & World Report's annual rankings, which were released Tuesday.
Pacific also was named among the best undergraduate engineering programs, best ethnic diversity and best value schools, and was listed as the 14th-best college in the state when looking at all institutions, whether public or private, that offer a wide range of undergraduate majors as well as master's degrees and doctorates.
The top university in the nation was Princeton, the sixth consecutive year for that distinction. Williams College in Massachusetts was named the top liberal arts college for the 14th successive year, and the University of California, Berkeley, was named the top public university for the 19th consecutive year.
Other California schools that ranked among the best universities: Stanford (fifth), California Institute of Technology (tied for 12th), University of California, Berkeley (20th); University of Southern California (23rd) and University of California, Los Angeles (24th). Six University of California campuses are listed among the top 12 public schools: Cal; UCLA; University of California, Santa Barbara; University of California, Irvine; University of California, Davis; and University of California, San Diego.
"At University of the Pacific, we take great pride in the superb education we provide our students,” university President Pamela A. Eibeck said in a statement. "We’re also pleased to be recognized for our exciting diversity, the value we offer our students and their families, and for our outstanding School of Engineering and Computer Science."
U.S. News surveys college officials and high school counselors to gauge opinions of schools, and it considers graduation rates, faculty resources, financial strength, graduate giving, test scores of incoming students and admission rates. Many of these data points vary only slightly from year to year.
U.S. News says its formula measures quality in ways that matter to students and parents, but critics say the rankings are a self-perpetuating exercise in rewarding wealth and prestige.
It's one of the reasons Ivy League schools dominate the top of the list. Joining Princeton among the top schools are Harvard (No. 2) and Yale (tied for third).
Other analysts have begun to judge schools based on what they call "return on investment," looking at net price and economic outcomes for graduates. Last year, the federal government made public for the first time the average earnings of graduates 10 years after they started college. The data, on the website known as College Scorecard, encompassed only former students who had received federal financial aid and did not distinguish between those who majored in, say, engineering and those who majored in anthropology.
Despite those limitations, Money and Washington Monthly magazines built the federal earnings information into their rankings.
"It's the best existing database on the financial outcomes of enrolling in a particular college," said Kim Clark, a senior writer on higher education for Money. "A person's ability to navigate the working world and earn a living, and not live in their parents' basement, that to me is a sign of success in college. In the real world, you do have to earn a living."
Princeton, Michigan and Harvard topped this year's Money list, in that order.
U.S. News does not include the federal earnings data in its formula.
"U.S. News believes that students and their parents should strongly consider academic quality when choosing a college, and prospective students should not base their college choice primarily on potential earnings," Robert Morse, the magazine's chief data strategist, wrote in an email. "There are well-documented flaws in the current College Scorecard that can make the data misleading. When and if the Department of Education publishes a new version, we will evaluate it."
— The Washington Post contributed to this report.