2021 Forbes College Ranking

Forbes has released its annual college ranking.

‘Tis the season for college rankings. Forbes is out with its latest college rankings. US News & World Report, the leader in the college rankings game (and it sure is a game as Malcolm Gladwell will attest — do check out his recent podcasts on the matter), will be releasing its rankings on September 13th. And while all publications rank colleges based on different algorithms, which means that where a school lands in the Forbes ranking is absolutely no indication whatsoever of where it will land in the all-important US News Ranking, it’s interesting nonetheless where schools land in the various publications. So which university takes the grand prize in the Forbes ranking?

UC Berkeley Claims the Grand Prize in Forbes Ranking

That would be the University of California – Berkeley. Long considered one of the finest — if not the finest — public school in the land, it’s interesting to see that Cal bested the likes of Harvard University, Yale University, Princeton University, Stanford University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among others. As Christian Kreznar writes for Forbes in a piece entitled “America’s Top Colleges,” “Public universities deliver the most outstanding education to the broadest range of students at the most affordable price. That’s the message of Forbes’ 2021 ranking of top colleges. Using a new methodology that counts low-income student outcomes and adds a giant federal database to Forbes’ tally of graduate earnings, for the first time ever, Forbes has ranked a public school, the University of California at Berkeley, in the No. 1 spot. Harvard, unseated from first place, is a distant No. 7. There are five other publics in the top 25 including three UCs, the University of Michigan and the University of Florida.”

Harvard Slips Significantly in Forbes Ranking

So Forbes sure is spreading the love among America’s top public schools, pushing Harvard all the way down the list to…that’s right…#7, right after some of the usual suspects! So which schools follow UC Berkeley in the Forbes ranking? Yale University sits at #2, Princeton University at #3, Stanford University at #4, Columbia University at #5, Massachusetts Institute of Technology at #6, Harvard University at #7, University of California, Los Angeles at #8, University of Pennsylvania at #9, Northwestern University at #10, Dartmouth College at #11, Duke University at #12, Cornell University at #13, Vanderbilt University at #14, University of California, San Diego at #15, Amherst College at #16, University of Southern California at #17, Williams College at #18, Pomona College at #19, University of California, Davis at #20, Georgetown University at #21, University of Michigan at #22, University of Chicago at #23, Rice University at #24, and University of Florida at #25.

Have a question about the Forbes college ranking methodology? Surprised there are so many California-based universities in the top 25? Let us know your question by posting it below. We look forward to hearing from you!


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  • Xin Wang says:

    UCBerkely #1! Hahahahahahahahaha. I guess when you Get rejected by all the Ivies you can still say you are attending the Number 1 school in the land, now!

  • Jones Radulovic says:

    Exactly, I think it is widely known that UCB is- without question- a safety school for Ivy rejects. And why are all these competitive but non-elite publics suddenly popular with Forbes? Makes you wonder what financial incentive has occurred- or will occur- for Forbes from such a distorted list. Is the federal government involved somehow? Very suspicious! Pretty soon, they will rank a Florida public school in the top 25. Whoops, THAT just happened. Really? YES, REALLY.

    Sorry Forbes, you just lost all credibility with, um…just about everybody except Ivy Rejects and Gator Nation- the ‘intellectuals of the Gridiron’.

    • alan bersin says:

      I went to UC Berkeley as an undergraduate a number of years ago and the classes were largely taught by Teacher Aides who were pretty dim and uninspiring. Main lectures were given by professors, but zero mentoring. School is old hippie mixed with LA brats, and an unpleasant social mess. Also, Bay Area weather sucks most of the time. Tuition for out of state a rip off.

      • Maria Lenhart says:

        I had some great small classes at Berkeley. And what’s so bad about Bay Area weather? Oh, must be our lack of blizzards, hurricanes and hot, humid summers.

  • Jay Vogel says:

    Thumbs up Alan Bersin! My sister went there and boy did she regret it- transferred out after a semester.

  • Winston Fu says:

    I can see the appeal of Berkeley at first blush. Internationally and in academic circles, Berkeley has a better overall reputation than Cornell, Brown, Dartmouth, UPenn, and Columbia. In STEM, the reputation is better than virtually every other university. Also, the value is difficult to match for in-state students. Many students choose Berkeley over the so-called lower Ivies based on its reputation and cost. It’s too bad so many end up regretting it after experiencing the culture shock of 700+ student lower division classes and being treated as a statistic.

  • Winston Wang says:

    Yeah, I think MIT takes a second seat to Berkeley. And absolutely Berkeley is like Harvard overseas- you think they would consider UPenn or Columbia or Cornell superior in Latvia or Bangladesh? Fuggetaboutit! Not to mention those UCB rejects having to settle for ‘lower Ivies’- all day long- and not the reverse. Yep. Not once do you see a kid unhappy about getting into Berkeley but getting rejected by Harvard. THAT just does NOT happen.

  • Dawn Frank says:

    4 of the last 5 US Presidents graduated from an Ivy League school, 15 overall. Not ONE attended Berkeley. Obama graduated Columbia and Trump from Penn. I think there would be at least ONE Berkeley grad in the mix if it were superior to ANY Ivy.

  • Brian Burnsly says:

    In Fall 2019, UC Berkeley accepted 31% of their class with an ACT of 29 or below. 10% had 18-23. And 2% 12-17. Not sure that last cohort is even literate. Sorry, not Ivy-Caliber!

  • Alex Bhest says:

    I know it pains us to think that a public institution could be as good as Harvard. Cal has tremendous resources and would equal any upper ivy for undergraduate education if the student can navigate the tremendous size of the place. The Newsweek rankings are deeply flawed as well. I encourage all of you listen to Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, Pushkin, on the matter. And that class molding occurs everywhere, especially the elites, where daddy’s money or connections, stupidly unpopular prep sports, and just “technically” being an URM (like grandmother from Barcelona-“Hispanic”) gets you in with a 30 on the ACT. The sad truth is that these elite institutions could use there tremendous, non-taxable endowments, at least to increase class size to keep up with population growth and actually spread their “great” knowledge. By the way, Obama transferred to Columbia, Gates and Zuckerberg dropped out, and Bezos started Amazon years after leaving Princeton with the help of his parents. The “success” of these institutions has very little to do them but rather to selection bias. The sad thing is that many of these kids are gunning for medicine, comp sci or engineering where ability out weighs institutional names, for the actual people who hire. But none of this will impress your aunt in Delhi, Hong Kong, or the Upper East Side like a Harvard sweat shirt!

  • Winston Fu says:

    A lot of insecure folks in these comments, or otherwise harbor a provincial East Coast bias. To the other “Winston” – yes, a lot of these lauded Ivies aren’t as lauded outside of the US. Not just in small countries, in general. Same can be said of the West Coast. Also, one of Forbe’s metrics is salary to debt ratio. Flawed, but probably a more objective measure of educational success than alumni donations, don’t you think? Anyone here actually read the article? Anyone here actually qualified to attend any of these places (Legacy admits or fragile parents? 😉

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