Using the quality of the education a college provides, the experiences of its students and how much those students achieve as its measuring stick, Forbes.com has named Lawrence University the best undergraduate institution in Wisconsin and 50th nationally among more than 600 undergraduate institutions in its third annual “America’s Best Colleges” report.

Lawrence was the only state institutions to crack the business publication’s top 100. Beloit College was ranked 125th, St. Norbert College 152nd, Carroll University 184th, and Ripon College 195th.

In addition to finishing top-ranked among 11 Wisconsin institutions included in Forbes.com’s list, Lawrence also was ranked higher than such traditional educational heavyweights as Georgetown University (52), the University of California-Berkeley (65) and Ivy League member Cornell University (70).

Liberal arts colleges like Lawrence accounted for six of the top 15 ranked institutions nationally while many of the large state universities landed well down Forbes’ list, including Penn. State University (192), UW-Madison (212), and the University of Minnesota (418).

Launched in 2008 as an alternative to the annual rankings done by U.S. News & World Report, Forbes’ rankings focus largely on student-related concerns: Do the students enjoy their classes and overall academic experience? Will courses be interesting and rewarding? How likely is the student to graduate in four years? Will the student get a good job after graduation? How much debt will the student incur in pursuit of a degree?

“We’re happy that Forbes takes a student-centered approach to its assessments,” said Ken Anselment, Lawrence’s director of admissions. “And we continue to be gratified that Forbes recognizes the high-quality experience we provide our students, as well as the lifetime of rewards they reap from that experience as alumni.”

Compiled with the assistance of researchers at the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit think tank Center for College Affordability and Productivity, the magazine’s 2010 “America’s Best Colleges” report ranks 610 undergraduate institutions from among the 6,600 accredited post-secondary institutions in the United States.

More than 10 factors are used in objectively determining the rankings, with no single factor accounting as much as 20 percent. The only subjective judgments are those of Forbes and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity as to which factors to include and the weights to be used in evaluating each factor.

Data in the rankings were drawn from numerous sources, including the opinions of student evaluations of courses and instructors recorded on the Web site RateMyProfessors.com and post-graduate success determined by enrollment-adjusted entries in “Who’s Who in America” and average salaries of graduates reported by Payscale.com.

Other ranking factors included an estimated average student debt after four years, four-year college graduation rates, and the number of students and faculty, adjusted for enrollment, who have won nationally competitive awards such as Rhodes Scholarships and Nobel Prizes.

Williams College earned Forbes.com’s no. 1 ranking, supplanting last year’s top-ranked institution, the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, which was ranked fourth this year. Princeton University (2), Amherst College (3) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (5) completed the top five.