Updated at the bottom with UCLA's response.

UCLA might not outrank USC when it comes to football, but the Westwood school pulled ahead this year in the most-watched academic rankings in the United States.

See also: California Is a Top State For Geniuses

U.S. News & World Report's annual “Best Colleges” list of national universities, released today, puts UCLA at number 23 in a tie with the University of Virginia. USC tied for 25th with Carnegie Mellon University.

See also: USC, UCLA Tied in Academic Ranking

The Trojans had tied with UCLA at number 23 for the past two years:


It's not clear why UCLA stayed and USC fell, but the publication's data shows that the Westwood school costs much less—$12,702 a year for in-state tuition and fees versus a whopping $48,280 for the University Park institution.

See also: USC Is a Top 5 Party School

And, yes, cost is a factor in the rankings. U.S. News also looks at acceptance rate (both schools let in about 1 in 5 applicants), freshman retention (both had 97 percent) and the “6-year graduation rate” (USC had 91 percent, UCLA had 90).

Nearly 1,800 schools were evaluated for the ranking. The publication says:

The University of California—Los Angeles is just five miles away from the Pacific Ocean. The public institution offers more than 3,000 courses and more than 130 majors to undergraduate students.

Stanford (number 4), Caltech (10), UC Berkeley (20), UC San Diego (37), UC Davis (38), UC Santa Barbara (40), and UC Irvine (42) comprise the rest of the top-ranked national universities in California.

Credit: Monica's Dad/Flickr

Credit: Monica's Dad/Flickr

Topping the list was Princeton, which was followed by Harvard (number 2), Yale (3), Columbia, Stanford and the University of Chicago (tied at number 4) and MIT (7).

Interestingly, the British publication Times Higher Education does worldwide university rankings that have recently put Pasadena's Caltech at the very top and UCLA in the top 10.

See also: UCLA a Top 8 University, According To Times Higher Education World Ranking

See the whole U.S. News list here.

[Added at 3:08 p.m.]: In a statement today, UCLA sliced it up this way:

UCLA is No. 2 among the nation’s best public universities … UCLA topped all universities in the survey for economic diversity; 39 percent of UCLA undergraduate students receive Pell Grants. … Among national universities, UCLA was tied for No. 9 for ethnic diversity … 

Chancellor Gene Block:

By any measure, UCLA has earned its reputation among the top institutions of higher learning.

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