Head of the class

This is how SMU rates in prestigious 2021 U.S. News & World Report college rankings

How SMU rates in 2021 U.S. News & World Report college rankings

Southern Methodist University in Dallas
These SMU students would now be wearing masks, of course. Southern Methodist University/Facebook

The prestigious new U.S. News & World Report's new 2021 Best Colleges report is out, and Dallas' Southern Methodist University has landed in the top 100 nationally — although a few places down from last year.

The trusted annual report that compares more than 1,400 undergraduate institutions in the United States has ranked SMU No. 66 nationally and No. 3 in Texas. That's a couple spots down from its No. 64 national ranking in 2020.

This, on the heels of another recent report, by neighborhood review site Niche.com, that ranked SMU No. 4 in Texas and No. 86 nationwide.

The U.S. News report, released September 14, gave SMU high marks in the categories of Best Colleges for Veterans (No. 38), Best Colleges for Veterans (No. 50), Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs (No. 102), Best Value Schools (No. 151), and also cited it as No. 373 in the category of Top Performers on Social Mobility. (No, that doesn't have to do with social media)

Nationally, SMU (somehow!) tied at No. 66 with a number of other schools: Texas A&M University; Fordham University in New York; George Washington University in Washington, D.C.; Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles; University of Massachusetts - Amherst; University of Minnesota - Twin Cities; and Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The prestigious U.S. News report compared the institutions across 17 measures of "academic quality" this year. Acknowledging the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on students and schools, the publication made several updates to its methodology, notes a release.

For 2021, U.S. News added two new metrics to measure student debt. It also increased the weight of the outcome category, which measures graduation rates, retention rates, and social mobility, and reduced the weights for standardized test scores, high school class standing, and alumni giving. And, for the very first time, the report ranks test-blind schools (those that don't require an SAT or ACT score for admission). 

"The pandemic has affected students across the country, canceling commencement ceremonies and switching classes from in person to remote," said Kim Castro, editor and chief content officer, in a release. "Whether students have slightly altered their college plans or changed them entirely, it remains our mission to continue providing students and their families with the tools they need to help find the right school for them."

Among Texas' other top schools, UT Austin ranks No. 42 nationally, up six spots from 2020. It's the school's highest ranking on the report since 1985, touts a news release from the university. UT Austin also rates as the top public university in Texas.

Elsewhere, Baylor University comes in at No. 76 and Texas Christian University, at No. 80.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the title of best university in Texas once again goes to Rice. The prestigious Houston school ranks No. 16 among national universities, up one spot from last year. 

Besides earning high marks for its undergraduate teaching, innovation, and value, Rice gets special mention from U.S. News for its quality of student life.

"Rice University, located in the heart of Houston’s Museum District, offers a dynamic student life in the nation’s fourth-largest city," the report says.

So, which university is head of the class, nationally, in 2021?

That honor would go to Princeton University, followed by Harvard, Columbia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Yale to round out the top five.