The U.S. News rankings methodology focuses on academic excellence, with schools evaluated on hundreds of data points and up to 15 measures of academic quality. Overall, the rankings emphasize student outcomes – such as graduation and freshman retention rates – which carry the most weight at 30 percent. The top National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges have significantly higher graduation and freshman retention rates than other schools.

Schools like USD in the National Universities category offer a full range of undergraduate majors as well as master's and doctoral programs. The colleges also are committed to producing groundbreaking research.

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