UC Berkeley kicked off the U.S. News & World Report rankings of best U.S. colleges

Sproul Plaza, UC Berkeley. Photo: LAgirl5252

Call it a big flunk.

UC Berkeley, long ranked among the top public universities in the U.S., has been “de-ranked” by U.S. News and World Report’s Best College rankings because the university provided incorrect data about its alumni contributions.

Before being booted out, UC Berkeley had been ranked second after UCLA. It was one of five schools that had its rankings delisted, according to U.S. News & World Report. The others included Scripps College, Mars Hill University, the University of North Carolina—Pembroke and Johnson & Wales University.

“The misreporting by each school resulted in their numerical ranks being higher than they otherwise would have been,” according to a story in U.S. News. “Because of the discrepancies, U.S. News has moved the schools to the “Unranked” category, meaning they do not receive numerical ranks.”


UC Berkeley brought the misreported data to the magazine’s attention and said it had been misreporting information since 2014, according to U.S. News. When UC Berkeley submitted the percentage of alumni who had donated, it included people who had made pledges to contribute, not just those that had actually donated.

“University of California—Berkeley originally reported that its two-year average alumni giving rate for fiscal years 2017 and 2016 was 11.6%.,” according to U.S. News. “Recently the school said that its correct average alumni giving rate for just fiscal year 2016 was 7.9%,” according to the article… “This means that UC—Berkeley has greatly overstated its alumni giving data to U.S. News annually since 2014. Alumni giving rate accounts for 5% of the Best Colleges ranking.”

UC Berkeley released a statement Monday morning and said that the error resulted when U.S. News and World Report changed its reporting requirements in 2014. Cal never made the requested change and only figured out recently that the university had not followed through.

“From our research, it appears that beginning in 2014 U.S. News required universities to report only cash donations (rather than cash donations plus multi-year pledges) as submitted to the nationally recognized Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) Survey,” according to the UC Berkeley statement. “The then-new change in methodology was apparently overlooked, as we continued using the previously existing U.S. News reporting guidelines. We regret the oversight and look forward to working with U.S. News regarding any additional steps that need to be taken.”

In order to be considered for the 2020-2023 rankings, Chancellor Carol Christ and UC President Janet Napolitano will have to provide letters certifying that the data Cal submits is accurate, according to U.S. News.

Screenshot of the UC Berkeley page on U.S. News & World Report of college listings. Note that Cal is not ranked.

Removal from the 2019 list of best colleges also means UC Berkeley won’t be ranked in Best Value Schools, Top Public Schools and Best Colleges for Veterans rankings.

In 2018, US News ranked UC Berkeley as the #1 public university and #4 overall.


The Daily Bruin, the newspaper for UCLA, reported the story on Friday and made sure to point out it was the #1 ranked public university.

This story was updated around 8:50 a.m. on July 29 after UC Berkeley sent a statement to Berkeleyside.