Where does Penn State rank among colleges in 2023? See what Forbes, WSJ & more have to say (2024)

Another academic year is already underway, and Penn State is back in the spotlight as publications roll out this year’s national and global college rankings.

U.S. News and World Report, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and more each included Penn State among their top institutions this year, but key differences emerge when examining value, educational strengths and post-graduate outcomes. In many ways, Penn State ranked below its peer institutions in Pennsylvania and across the Big Ten conference.

Here’s what you need to know about Penn State’s placement in some of this year’s premier college and university rankings reports.

U.S. News and World Report

Perhaps best known these days for its college and university rankings, U.S. News and World Report sees Penn State on the rise.

Penn State’s University Park campus finished in a six-way tie at No. 60 among the organization’s latest national universities rankings. That’s a 17-spot jump up from 2022, when the school ranked No. 77 overall.

Additionally, Penn State’s flagship campus tied for No. 28 among public schools and national universities, marking a three-spot rise from last year.

“Strong placements in rankings such as U.S. News are but one metric to show that we are succeeding in our mission as Pennsylvania’s flagship, land-grant, public research university,” Justin Schwartz, Penn State’s executive vice president and provost, wrote in a statement. “A Penn State degree is highly regarded around the world. Our $1 billion research enterprise is impacting humanity with new knowledge and enriching our students’ learning by bringing research experiences into the classroom. And the University takes pride in providing opportunities for first-generation students and incredibly talented individuals from diverse and low-income backgrounds as part of our land-grant mission to serve all Pennsylvanians.”

Once again, Penn State finished dead last among its Big Ten conference peers in terms of value, a metric that, for U.S. News and World Report, centers around academic quality and the net cost of attendance for out-of-state students who received an average level of financial aid.

This time around, Penn State ranked No. 193 out of 221 national universities in this year’s list of “Best Value Schools,” falling behind the 13 other current Big Ten schools, as well as the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), University of Southern California (USC) and the University of Oregon, which are slated to join the conference soon. The University of Washington, which will become the 18th Big Ten member alongside Oregon in 2024, was not included in the “Best Value Schools” rankings.

Penn State ranked lowest among the 13 Pennsylvania institutions included in U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Value Schools.” Temple University, which falls under the same “state-related” status as Penn State when it comes to state-provided funding, finished No. 70 overall, while the University of Pittsburgh was not ranked.

Here’s where Penn State ranked nationally in this year’s U.S. News and World Report

U.S. News and World Report ranked Penn State No. 36 among its “Best Colleges for Veterans” and placed the school at No. 342 among its “top performers on social mobility,” which examines institutions that enroll and graduate disadvantaged students, particularly through grants. Furthermore, Penn State did not receive rankings in national universities lists for this year’s most innovative schools and top undergraduate teaching programs.

Here’s how Penn State fared in U.S. News and World Report’s program and disciplinary rankings:

  • Best National Universities: tie at No. 60 (t-10th in Big Ten)

  • Best Public Schools (National Universities): t-28 (t-9th in Big Ten)

  • Best Value Schools (National Universities): 193 (14th in Big Ten)

  • Best Undergrad Nursing Programs: t-31 (t-9th in Big Ten)

  • Best Undergrad Teaching Programs: Unranked

  • Best Undergrad Engineering Programs: t-19 (t-6th in Big Ten)

  • Top Majors in Engineering Programs: Aerospace/Aeronautical/Astronautical — t-15; Biological/Agricultural — t-10; Chemical — 16; Civil — 13; Computer — t-25; Electrical/Electronic/Communications — t-17; Environmental/Environmental Health — t-15; Industrial Manufacturing — 9; Materials; — 9; Mechanical — t-15.

  • Best Undergrad Business Programs: t-21 (t-6th in Big Ten)

  • Top Majors in Business Programs: Accounting — t-25; Finance — t-50; Management — t-17; Marketing — t-24; Production/Operations Management — 11; Supply Chain Management/Logistics — 8.

  • Best Undergrad Computer Science Programs: t-40 (9th in Big Ten)

  • Best Undergrad Economic Programs: t-41 (t-7th in Big Ten)

  • Best Undergrad Psychology Programs: t-34 (8th in Big Ten)

  • Most Innovative Schools (National Universities): Unranked

  • Best Colleges for Veterans (National Universities): t-36 (t-9th in Big Ten)

  • Best Performers on Social Mobility (National Universities): t-342 (11th in Big Ten)


In its annual rankings of U.S. colleges and universities, Forbes placed Penn State at No. 408 nationally among private and public schools. That’s 253 spots below where Penn State found itself in the 2021 rankings.

Penn State found itself ranked beneath nearly all 33 Pennsylvania schools represented in Forbes’ 2023 rankings, which feature 500 institutions across the country. Just like U.S. News and World Report, Forbes ranked Penn State beneath all 13 other current Big Ten schools and the four West Coast institutions slated to join the conference soon.

In its analysis, Forbes ranked schools by examining a number of factors, including return on investment, student debt and outcomes for graduates. According to its methodology, schools ranked highly if their students tended to return after their first year, graduate on time, secure a high-paying post-graduate job and leave college behind with little student debt.

You can browse and filter through Forbes’ 2023 college and university rankings online by visiting forbes.com/top-colleges.

Wall Street Journal

Through its rankings developed in collaboration with College Pulse and Statista, the Wall Street Journal placed Penn State at No. 220 overall earlier this month. Notably, the university earned a spot above fellow Big Ten schools Ohio State (No. 222) and University of Nebraska-Lincoln (No. 285).

The Wall Street Journal’s rankings of the nation’s top 400 universities was fueled in part by College Pulse’s survey of more than 60,000 students and alumni from across the country between January and May 2023. According to the report, that survey was characterized as “the largest-ever independent survey of verified college students and recent alumni in the U.S.”

Criteria for the Wall Street Journal’s rankings included student outcomes, graduation rates, learning environments, career preparation, diversity and more, all of which were generally compared to similar schools. Institutions across the U.S. qualified for the rankings if they are eligible to receive federal aid, award four-year degrees, teach more than 900 students, operate in a not-for-profit manner and receive enough survey responses, among other key factors.

Check out the Wall Street Journal’s full rankings online at wsj.com/rankings/college-rankings/best-colleges-2024.

Additional rankings

Since 2012, the Center for World University Rankings has published a global ranking of universities that focus on education, post-graduate employment, faculty quality and research. This list is different, the CWUR says, because it does not rely on surveys and university data submissions.

Penn State placed No. 53 overall out of 2,000 international institutions in CWUR’s 2022-23 rankings. The university received high marks for its faculty and research (ranked No. 57 and 53, respectively), but lost standing in the rankings’ education and employment fields.

Additionally, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) ranked Penn State No. 83 overall among roughly 1,500 global institutions in its latest World University Rankings, released in June. The university rose 10 spots from the previous rankings.

QS, a company specializing in the analysis of higher education across the globe, ranked Penn State No. 24 among this year’s U.S. institutions and No. 4 among Big Ten schools. The results are fueled in part by the analysis of academic papers and “expert opinions” from more than 240,000 faculty and employees across the globe.

“Ultimately, each rankings organization uses measures it deems important, and there is wide variation in methodology and the kinds of data collected,” Penn State wrote in a statement. “We remain committed to excellence, to providing Pennsylvanians with access to a world-class education, and to our long-term partnership with the commonwealth.”

Where does Penn State rank among colleges in 2023? See what Forbes, WSJ & more have to say (2024)
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