The new U.S. News & World Report college rankings are out. According to the magazine, the top four colleges in America are, unsurprisingly, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Columbia. As the magazine explains, however:

This marks the 27th year that U.S. News has published college rankings. Though the top-ranked schools garner much acclaim, the rankings aren’t produced simply to benefit students who are considering attending institutions like Harvard and Williams. U.S. News uses its array of college data to provide insight to students of various academic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Well, sort of. While the magazine made a number of minor changes to its ranking methodology this year, what still seems to matter most is which schools are in the top 10 to 20 on the list. Somehow the fact that Howard University rated number two among historically black colleges in U.S. News didn’t seemed to garner nearly as much attention (perhaps because it ranked 104 among national universities).

U.S. News also reduced weight given to the controversial “peer reputation” portion of the college ranking. This year it also included the opinions of high school guidance counselors. Eric Hoover over at the Chronicle of Higher Education believes that this change is not particularly noteworthy:

The significance of this change may be more symbolic than substantial. Sure, the power of the peer-assessment survey, long loathed by some college officials and high-school counselors, has been diluted. Nevertheless, reputation—that slippery and subjective thing—still matters a lot in the U.S. News formula. The mix of reputational experts has just become more diverse.

Well, one thing at a time. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer