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UC Merced Rises Nearly 40 Spots in U.S. News College Rankings

September 17, 2023
Students are shown on Scholars Bridge at UC Merced
Among US public institutions, UC Merced leaped to No 28.

UC Merced's commitment to student success continues to earn national recognition as the university climbed to No. 60 - up from No. 97 last year - in U.S. News & World Report's list of Best Colleges in the nation released today. Among US public institutions UC Merced placed in the top 30, leaping to No. 28 in the country.

The placement represents UC Merced's highest-ever ranking in the annual report, and the improvement over last year is the biggest jump in the school's existence. Overall, UC Merced had the biggest gain of all schools in the Top 100, rising 37 spots.

The university was also named No. 62 in the country for best undergraduate teaching.

"Student success is our North Star, and it is rewarding that national organizations increasingly recognize this commitment," said UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz. "What has been built here, in the heart of California, is a testament to the faculty and staff, both past and present, who have worked tirelessly in their shared pursuit of student success."

Like many other national rankings, U.S. News - which has issued its Best Colleges list annually since 1983 - updated its methodology this year to put the focus on student outcomes; weight has been added to measurements such as social mobility, graduation rates, manageable debt and post-graduate success.

This new approach speaks to UC Merced's signature strengths. A perennial top university for social mobility - which measures how well colleges graduate students who receive Pell Grants - the university moved up to No. 4 in this category nationwide.

UC Merced's first-generation student enrollment, which is well-documented, was also key to the university's rise in the ranking. Among the new criteria factored into the rankings was first-generation graduation rates and how they compared to graduation rates of non-first generation students. According to US News, the closer those two numbers approached each other, "the better the school has demonstrated its ability to attend to its students' needs."

"We always say: We don't do what we do to pursue rankings," said Muñoz. "We pursue our mission of advancing students' social and economic mobility, and the nation notices."

All nine University of California undergraduate campuses landed in the Top 100:

15 (tied) - UC Berkeley and UCLA

28 (tied) - UC Davis and UC San Diego

33 - UC Irvine

35 - UC Santa Barbara

60 - UC Merced

76 - UC Riverside 

82 - UC Santa Cruz 

Other recent ratings for UC Merced: 

  • Wall Street Journal rated UC Merced No.15 in the nation for public universities, No. 3 in California. 
  • Third Way’s Economic Mobility Index, which measures the economic success a school creates for its graduates, placed UC Merced at No. 7 in the nation. 
  • Money Magazine, which made the switch to a rating system this year as opposed to rankings, scored UC Merced 4.5 stars out of a possible 5. 
  • Princeton Review listed UC Merced as one of its Best Colleges in the US and one of the Best in the West, as well as No. 12 on the Green Colleges list. 

Alyssa Johansen

Alyssa Johansen HeadshotPublic Information Officer

Office: (209) 413-9330