The latest rankings list Southwestern as 85th among National Liberal Arts Colleges, and the number two national liberal arts college in Texas. Southwestern was also ranked 44th for Social Mobility among nearly 200 institutions. Students receiving Pell Grants typically come from households whose family incomes are less than $50,000 annually, with most money going to students with total family incomes below $20,000. For the third consecutive year, U.S. News published this distinct social mobility ranking for all ranked schools. 

The social mobility ranking was computed by aggregating the two ranking factors assessing graduation rates of Pell-awarded students:

  • Pell Grant graduation rates incorporate six-year graduation rates of Pell Grant students, adjusted to give much more credit to schools with larger Pell student proportions. This is computed as a two-year rolling average.
  • Pell Grant graduation rate performance compares each school’s six-year graduation rate among Pell recipients with its six-year graduation rate among non-Pell recipients by dividing the former into the latter, then adjusting to give much more credit to schools with larger Pell student proportions. The higher a school’s Pell graduation rate relative to its non-Pell graduation rate up to the rates being equal, the better it scores. This, too, is computed as a two-year rolling average.

Southwestern is categorized as National Liberal Arts College (NLAC) based on the Carnegie Basic Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Other classifications include National Universities, which offer graduate programs; Regional Universities (North, South, Midwest, and West); and Regional Colleges (also sorted into North, South, Midwest, and West lists). NLACs include private and public institutions that focus almost exclusively on undergraduate education and award at least 50 percent of their degrees in the arts and sciences. The editors of the popular college guidebook classify schools to more fairly compare schools with similar missions.

U.S. News and World Report assesses colleges and universities based on varying measures of academic excellence, such as admissions selectivity, student retention, average class size, per-student spending, the strength of the faculty, graduation rates, alumni employment outcomes, and alumni giving. It also ranks schools in categories such as first-year experiences, internships, learning communities, service-learning, study abroad, undergraduate research and creative projects, senior capstones, and writing in the disciplines. Unlike other college-ranking organizations, they do not rely on opinions garnered from residence hall tours, student polls, or recruiter interviews. The publication has been ranking colleges and universities since 1983.