Lawrence University was thought of more highly by high school guidance counselors than the editors at U.S. News & World Report in the magazine’s  2011 “America’s Best Colleges” report released today (8/17).

In addition to its overall rankings in national universities and national liberal arts colleges categories in its annual guide, U.S. News also includes lists and rankings of a wide variety of other niche categories, without regard for size or type of institution. Lawrence was ranked 36th nationally in a survey of guidance counselors from America’s best high schools who were asked which liberal arts colleges they think offer the best education to their students.  Among 250 national liberal arts colleges, Lawrence was ranked 67th.

One of numerous college guides released each August, U.S. News’ version uses a combination of subjective information, such as peer assessment as well as statistical analysis of a variety of factors it considers indicative of academic excellence — graduation rates, student retention and acceptance rates, among others — in determining its rankings.

Lawrence had strong showings in the areas of incoming students ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school class (38 percent), graduation rate (76 percent), full-time faculty (94 percent) and alumni giving rate (43 percent) while also showing increases in freshman retention rate (90 percent) and classes with less than 20 students (75 percent) from the previous year.

“We’re happy to see U.S. News report on things like our alumni giving rate, which, even in a challenging economy, continues to be among the nation’s highest as well as freshman retention rate, which in our case, was an increase over the previous year’s already high rate,” said Ken Anselment, director of admissions at Lawrence. “High student retention and alumni giving rates tell us that people’s satisfaction with their Lawrence experience is both consistent and lasting.

“Even more than the rankings,” Anselment added, “we’re thrilled to know that high school counselors — who best understand the nuances of quality and fit between students and colleges — continue to think very highly of the Lawrence experience and recommend it to some of their best students.”

Williams College of Massachusetts earned the magazine’s top spot in the national liberal arts college category for the seventh consecutive year. Harvard University was the top-ranked institution in U.S. News’ national universities category after sharing the no. 1 ranking last year with Princeton University, which was ranked second this year.

In compiling its annual “America’ s Best Colleges” guide, U.S. News & World Report evaluates nearly 1,500 of the nation’s public and private four-year schools, using data from up to 16 separate factors, each of which 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.