WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Princeton joined Harvard University atop the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings of U.S. colleges released on Tuesday, with the University of Maryland-Baltimore County named as the "up-and-coming" college.
The elite Ivy League had five schools in the magazine's top 10 with Harvard and Princeton tied at No. 1 and joined by Yale and Columbia University at third and fourth, respectively, while the University of Pennsylvania shared fifth with California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and the University of Chicago.
Caltech and MIT gained two spots from 2011 and Chicago rose four places. Harvard had held the No. 1 ranking alone in the previous survey.
The magazine, whose rankings were published as many high school students prepare to apply for college, said Williams College and Amherst College were the top two liberal arts colleges that offer at least half their degrees in liberal arts studies.
The rankings, compiled annually by the magazine since 1985, are based on a combination of survey responses and data provided by colleges. The magazine looks at factors such as tuition, total enrollment, acceptance rate, average freshman retention rate, graduation rate, class size, and SAT/ACT percentiles.
U.S. News rated the University of Maryland-Baltimore County as the "up-and-comer" among colleges "making the most promising and innovative changes in the areas of academics, faculty, and student life."
The Maryland school, a public institution founded in 1963, has in-state tuition and fees of $9,171 for 2011-2012, according to U.S. News. The school ranked No. 157 in the best colleges category.
Harvard had tuition and fees of $38,849 for 2011-2012.
Harvard, Yale and Princeton also were ranked as the top three in the "best value" category, based on the 2012 rankings and the 2010-2011 net cost of attendance for a student getting the average level of need-based financial aid.
"The higher the quality of the program and the lower the cost, the better the deal," U.S. News said. At the top three schools, at least 56 percent of students received need-based grants.
That "best value" category has become increasingly important. The U.S. Department of Education released data on Monday showing the national student loan default rate rose to 8.8 percent in fiscal year 2009 from 7 percent in fiscal year 2008.
The full list, along with other categories, can be found at: here
(Editing by Bill Trott)