The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

UMW ranks No. 11 nationally among public liberal arts colleges

3 min read
A picture of virginia hall from the side. It is an old brick building with while columns

There were 17 academic qualities that determined the ranking of UMW in the report. | Sarah Sklar, The Weekly Ringer


Staff Writer

This August, the U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Mary Washington No. 11 in “Best Colleges” among public liberal arts colleges and No. 149 nationally among liberal art colleges, including private schools, for 2023.

“Coming in 11th among public liberal arts colleges and 149th among national liberal arts colleges is a very strong first year in this category,” said Executive Director of University Communications Amy Jessee.

The report operates on 10 distinct overall rankings where colleges and universities are organized by academic mission. Of the 10 rankings, there are 17 academic qualities that determine the official ranking. 

“Many hallmarks of a Mary Washington education factor into this ranking, including graduation and retention rates, social mobility, class sizes, faculty degrees, student selectivity, financial resources, and alumni giving, and may contribute to advancement in this ranking in future years,” said Jessee. 

Sophomore conservation biology major Eliana Ramirez was pleased with UMW’s ranking among public liberal arts colleges.

“Out of a lot of the colleges in the country, I feel like that’s a good place out of the public schools,” she said. “I thought we’d place a little higher because we offer so much.”

Sophomore Jessica Oberlies, an environmental science major, believes the campus community is a major factor in this new ranking.

“It’s really great to hear,” she said. “Over the past year and a half I’ve seen that UMW has improved a lot in different aspects of student life, academics, and other factors. I am really excited to see this ranking and it is very representative of how good of a community we have at this school.” 

The ranking changed in early 2022 when Carnegie Classifications, the framework for classifying colleges and universities across the nation, received a request from UMW to be recategorized among baccalaureate liberal arts and sciences institutions rather than regional universities in the South. This edition of the U.S. News & World Report was the first time UMW was categorized as a national liberal arts school.

As well as being ranked No. 149 and No. 11, UMW’s nursing program ranked No. 247 nationally and No. 165 in Top Performers on Social Mobility by U.S. News & World Report. Mary Washington has also gained other accolades for the 2023 school year. 

“Washington Monthly, which measures schools based on contributions to the greater good in the categories of social mobility, research and public service, also recognized UMW among the top liberal arts colleges recently,” said Jessee. “Earlier in August, The Princeton Review included UMW in the ‘Best 388 Colleges for 2023.’”  

Washington Monthly and The Princeton Review include surveys from students, highlighting the advancements students and faculty see from the university. 

“We’re a community, so we have a lot of events to come see us,” she said. “We have a small school, it’s not huge and we’re not in the middle of nowhere.”

Additionally, this summer, Fiske Guide to Colleges named UMW among the “best and most interesting” public and private four-year colleges and universities. 

“The U.S. News ranking is just one of many guidebooks that future students and their families might consider,” said Jessee.

Some students believe progress still needs to be made in order for UMW to reach its full potential.

“Our school needs to put money towards things that matter most,” said Ramirez. “I feel like we spend a lot of money on random stuff instead of stuff like buildings, so they are a little nicer, I mean a lot of places have mold.” 

Some students offered suggestions for how UMW can improve as a campus.

“One way would be to create a larger diversity of students at our school, in gender, race, location, as in where people are from,” Oberlies said. “We could improve also by having more students stay all four years by providing more financial aid to students and having more scholarships available.”

Despite these rankings, Jessee emphasized that direct interactions with UMW are the best ways for students to get an idea of what the university is like.

“The best way to experience Mary Washington is to visit online or in-person, where you can hear directly from students, meet faculty and take a campus tour,” said Jessee.