U.S. News ranks universities and colleges in three steps.
First, to sort colleges and universities into appropriate categories for comparisons, this 2010 edition of America’s Best Colleges uses the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s 2006 Basic version of its classifications. Carnegie groups American colleges and universities according to their mission as defined by factors such as the highest level of degrees conferred by discipline. The Carnegie classifications have been the basis of the Best Colleges ranking categories since the first rankings in 1983. As the accepted standard in higher education, they are used by the Department of Education and many associations to organize their data and to determine colleges’ eligibility for grant money. U.S. News collapses nine of those Carnegie categories into four main groupings: National Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, Universities-Master’s, and Baccalaureate Colleges. The schools in the Universities-Master’s and Baccalaureate Colleges categories are placed into one of four geographic regions: North, South, Midwest, and West.
Finally, colleges are ranked in their category by their total weighted score.