Lawrence University’s academic excellence, including one of the country’s most distinctive first-year programs, as well as its exceptional education value were recognized in U.S. News & World Report’s 19th annual “America’s Best Colleges” report released Friday (8/19).

For the seventh consecutive year, Lawrence is ranked among the top quarter of the nation’s best liberal arts colleges, placing 53rd among 215 leading national colleges and universities in U.S. News’ “Best Liberal Arts Colleges” category. Lawrence was Wisconsin’s top-ranked institution in the national category.

U.S. News also cited Lawrence as an exceptional education value in its “Great Schools, Great Prices” category, which compares an institution’s academic quality to the net cost of attendance. Factoring in need-based financial aid, Lawrence was ranked the country’s 40th best value among the 215 national liberal arts colleges. Lawrence was the only institution in the state ranked in the national best values category.

Lawrence’s distinctive Freshman Studies, the college’s 60-year-old signature curricular program, was recognized for the fourth consecutive year in U.S. News’ “First-Year Experiences” category, one of eight special categories the magazine uses to highlight what it calls “outstanding examples of academic programs that are believed to lead to student success.”

The eight specialized “programs to look for” are not distinguished by institutional size or type, but include those cited most frequently in a survey of college presidents, chief academic officers and deans of admission. Institutions are not numerically ranked in the special categories, but listed alphabetically. Lawrence joined Duke, Princeton and Stanford universities, among others, who were recognized for first-year programs.

For the third year in a row, Williams College of Massachusetts earned the magazine’s top ranking among national liberal arts colleges, while Amherst College, also of Massachusetts, was ranked second for a third straight time.

In compiling its annual “America’s Best Colleges” guide, U.S. News & World Report evaluates nearly 1,400 of the nation’s public and private four-year schools, using data from 15 separate indicators of academic excellence such as selectivity, graduation rates, student retention, faculty resources and alumni satisfaction. Each factor is assigned a “weight” that reflects the magazine editor’s judgment as to how much that measure matters. Each school’s composite weighted score is then compared to peer institutions to determine final rankings.

Institutions are divided into several distinct categories. In addition to the best liberal arts college category that measures national institutions like Lawrence, other rankings are based on universities that grant master and doctorate degrees and colleges that are considered “regional” institutions such as St. Norbert College or UW-Oshkosh.