For the first time, UC Berkeley has taken the No.1 spot on Forbes magazine’s annual list of America’s top colleges, beating out several elite private universities, including Yale in second place and Princeton in third.
Rounding out Forbes’ top 10 for 2021 are Stanford in fourth place, followed by Columbia, MIT, Harvard, UCLA, the University of Pennsylvania and Northwestern University.
As the first public university to win Forbes’ top ranking — if you count out West Point, a military academy, taking the top spot in 2009 — Berkeley was noted for its affordability, excellence and “rich tradition of leading technological and social change.”
“A key part of our mission is providing a world-class education to a broad cross-section of exceptional students and transforming lives,” said Janet Gilmore, UC Berkeley’s senior director of strategic communications. “It is gratifying to see our important work recognized in the methodology used by Forbes and hopefully more institutions.”
As for other UC campuses making the top 50, UCLA ranked eighth, followed by UC San Diego (15th), UC Davis (20th), UC Santa Barbara (39th), and UC Irvine (47th).
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Forbes suspended its top American colleges ranking in 2020 and revamped its methodology by looking more closely at accessibility and affordability.
With 27% of UC Berkeley undergraduates receiving federal Pell grants, which are awarded to economically disadvantaged undergraduates, UC’s flagship campus came out on top. The magazine noted that Harvard’s share of undergrads receiving Pell grants is 12%.
In addition to each university’s share of Pell grant recipients, Forbes evaluated 600 four-year higher education institutions based on such measures as the average annual cost to students, accounting for tuition, grants and scholarships.
Other success indicators reviewed for Forbes’ rankings included alumni salaries, post-graduation debt, retention and graduation rates and academic and career awards and honors.
Forbes calculated UC Berkeley’s average amount of grant aid to be $19,126, average student debt at $6,000 and graduates’ average early career salary at $138,800.