UC Berkeley ranks No. 1 in Forbes top colleges list

photo of Sather Gate with students walking and biking through
Charlene Wang/Staff
Students walk and bike through Sather Gate. Many members of the campus community expressed pride after being ranked first on the Forbes' top colleges list.

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In its 2021 rankings of America’s top colleges, Forbes has placed UC Berkeley as first in the nation among both private and public schools.

Forbes highlighted UC Berkeley’s lower tuition costs compared to other schools, quality of education and diversity in its rankings list.

“I think this confirms what a lot of students know and knew when they decided to come to Berkeley — that this is a world-class institution, not just among public schools, but among all schools,” said James Weichert, ASUC Office of the Academic Affairs Vice President. “I think it’s great to see everyone have so much pride in their school.”

Forbes stated in an article that it considered a variety of factors in its rankings including debt, graduation rate and the number of years it takes for students to earn back their cost of study. However, alumni salary, which Forbes gathers from a variety of sources measuring alumni salary up to 10 years after graduation, is the most important factor when creating its list.

Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore added that what distinguishes UC Berkeley from other institutions is not only its reputation and faculty, but its “exceptional” students.

“Our students are exceptional. They are passionate and they tend to be focused on the greater good. Students learn from their peers who come from different places and have different backgrounds — such diversity enhances the educational experience,” Gilmore said in an email. “We work to ensure that students can thrive here. We do so by offering quality academic advising and support, top notch resources and services, and platforms to build community.”

UC Berkeley’s main focus revolves around research and providing students with quality education, as opposed to making changes based on rankings, Gilmore noted in an email. However, she finds it encouraging that the rankings from Forbes have considered access and diversity in recent years.

The high ranking is the result of policies advocated for by students and policies campus put in place, according to Weichert. He attributes UC Berkeley’s diversity to the recent policy disallowing consideration of SAT and ACT scores in admission.

“There are imbalances in the previous admission system, and we have a responsibility to work to remove those biases,” Weichert said. “If that means doing away with a test that has shown that it is biased against Black and brown students, then that is what we have to do.”

However, according to Weichert, campus still has room for improvement. Weichert pointed to the UC Board of Regents’ vote in July to continually increase student tuition across the UC system, claiming that the board’s decision runs counter to Forbes’ reasoning behind UC Berkeley’s rating.

Weichert believes the regents’ vote contradicts UC Berkeley’s espoused commitment to access and inclusivity.

Contact Robson Swift at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @swift_robson.