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Two Central Valley universities have been named as two of the top colleges in the nation in separate categories of the U.S New and World Report’s 2017 Best College rankings, which were released this week.

California State University, Fresno scored the highest among public universities and No. 3 overall when it comes to graduation rate performance.

The graduation rate performance category takes into account a university’s actual performance as compared to predicted performance based on student demographics, including spending per student, admissions selectivity and the proportion of undergraduates who receive Pell grants.

Both Fresno State and UC Merced were also ranked among the top overall universities. Fresno State came in at No. 220 while UC Merced was ranked at No. 152.

Princeton University was ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the top overall university. Rounding out the top five were Harvard, University of Chicago (tied for third), Yale (tied for third), Columbia (tied for fifth) and Stanford (tied for fifth).

Both those rankings said a lot about the university, Fresno State president Joseph I. Castro said.

“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,” Castro said. “Student success is one of the priorities in our new strategic plan and it’s clear that academics and athletics are rising together at Fresno State.”

Of the 23 colleges in the CSU system, Fresno State was one of four that were listed in the top universities category along with San Diego State (No. 146), CSU Fullerton (No. 202) and San Francisco State (No. 256).

U.S. News and World Report evaluates campuses on multiple factors. The magazine gives the most weight to graduation and retention rates and undergraduate academic reputation, followed by faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation rate performance and alumni giving.

The magazine ranked the top 298 universities in the country, giving the top 231 schools a numerical ranking then listing the rest alphabetically. 

Fresno State ranked high despite spending significantly less per student than other universities. On average, Fresno State spends $12,030 per student as compared to the national average of $37,373.

Last month, the Washington Monthly, a D.C.-based magazine, ranked Fresno State No. 25 in the nation among institutions on social mobility, research and service.

The magazine cited Fresno State as an “instructive example” of schools that enroll low-income students then helps them graduate.

UC Merced’s spot in the rankings come in the school's 12th academic year.

While it had been ranked multiple times for individual graduate programs, it was the first time the school was on the top overall universities list.

“Earning a spot among the nation’s most highly regarded colleges and universities is an enormous honor and a tribe to the trailblazing faculty, staff and students who have brought us so far in such a short period of time,” said UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland.

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