Pomona College is No. 1 on Forbes list of best in US

The liberal arts college in Claremont ranked eighth last year in second in 2013. It's the first time a Southern California school topped the list.
The liberal arts college in Claremont ranked eighth last year in second in 2013. It's the first time a Southern California school topped the list.
Courtesy Pomona College (Flickr)

Pomona College has topped Forbes’ eighth annual ranking of the best colleges in the U.S.

It's the first time a Southern California school made No. 1, according to Pomona.

The liberal arts college in Claremont, which enrolls around 1,600 students, ranked eighth last year and second in 2013. In-state students make up about 25 percent of the student body, according to college president David Oxtoby.

“There's a recognition of quality of our education, the financial resources that we provide for financial aid for accessibility and affordability and the outcomes that our students are going on to do amazing things,” Oxtoby said. “I don't think that changed dramatically this year but maybe just enough to push us to No. 1.”

Although schools known for their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs had an edge in the rankings, liberal arts schools Pomona and Williams College in Massachusetts took the top spots.

Forbes says it factors student satisfaction, student-to-faculty ratio, on-time graduation and financial aid and debt into the ranking. The magazine says its list is distinguished from the competition by focusing on a school's "output" rather than its "input."

"Our sights are set directly on ROI: What are students getting out of college?" writes staffer Caroline Howard, in a post describing the methodology.

Pomona College has employed many noted faculty, like the late author David Foster Wallace, and currently, the novelist Jonathan Lethem. Its alumni include Senator Brian Schatz from Hawaii, artist James Turrell and former New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller.

“We're getting lots of social media comments and emails and phone calls and so forth so people are having a lot of fun with this,” said Oxtoby. “It's not that we believe everything in the rankings, but it creates wonderful conversations about the special education we have here at Pomona."

Forbes' top 10 colleges

1 Pomona College California
2 Williams College Massachusetts
3 Stanford University California
4 Princeton University New Jersey
5 Yale University Connecticut
6 Harvard College Massachusetts
7 Swarthmore College Pennsylvania
8 Brown University Rhode Island
9 Amherst College Massachusetts
10 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Massachusetts

All of the colleges that made the top 10 were located either on the East Coast or the West Coast.

Here are some other trends among the leading schools, according to Forbes:

  • They all have very low student/ faculty ratio with the highest at 11:1; the lowest at 6:1.
  • They have high retention rates. Stanford and Yale have the highest, with only 1% leaving/ transferring to another school.
  • They have high four-year graduation rates. 84% or more graduate in four years.
  • They are all old schools. Pomona College is the newest, founded in 1887.

Forbes puts out the annual list in partnership with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP).