W&L drops in national rankings, says U.S. News & World Report

President Will Dudley calls the decrease from 10th to 11th “insignificant”


The Washington and Lee University campus, featuring Huntley Hall and Newcomb Hall. Photo by Coleman Martinson, ’21.

Coleman Martinson

U.S. News & World Report has dropped Washington and Lee University in its rankings for national liberal arts colleges. The ranking, published earlier this month, places W&L at 11th in the nation for liberal arts colleges.

Washington and Lee is currently tied with Grinnell College, Haverford College, Smith College and Vassar College.

Schools are ranked according to their performance across a set of widely accepted indicators of excellence such as alumni contributions rank, retention rank, selectivity rank and more.

U.S. News & World Report changed their methodology this year, adding campus diversity as one of the ranking factors.

Washington and Lee’s biggest setback this year is the high school counselor recommendation ranking. The school dropped to 31st in this category from 25th last year.

Screenshot of Washington and Lee University’s ranking. Photo courtesy of U.S. News & World Report website.

Sally Stone Richmond, vice president for admissions and financial aid, said her office is mindful of counselors when sending outward communications.

“We have expanded the location of our travel, types of schools and organizations that we visit, and we produced counselor-specific materials [that are] mailed to thousands of counselors,” Richmond said in an email. “Our goal is to insure that counselors know and appreciate W&L’s distinctions, opportunities and commitment to affordability.”

Her office is implementing a new program this year to encourage high school counselors to learn more about the school firsthand.

“Over thirty counselors from high schools and community-based organizations from around the country will be on campus from Nov. 11-13, most of whom have never visited campus,” Richmond said. “Their visit will include time with students, faculty and staff, plus exploring campus and the area.”

The university’s graduation and retention rank decreased from 17th to 29th in liberal arts colleges, according to the report. The selectivity rank remained steady at 9th in the nation.

President Will Dudley said that the change in the overall ranking is insignificant. He does not consider rankings when judging the school.

“We focus on executing our mission and serving our students as well as we possibly can,” Dudley said in an email. “We don’t measure our success by any external ranking. Achieving a particular position in any ranking is not our goal.”