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U.S. News' Best-Colleges List to Include For-Profit Schools

The 2012 U.S. News and World Reports' Best Colleges ranking to be released on Sept. 13 will include for the first time for-profit colleges and universities that grant bachelor's degrees and are regionally accredited—many of which are online programs.

The news came in an article about the methodology behind the list posted on the U.S. News website by ranking guru and economist Robert Morse. Recently profiled in the Washington Post about the controversial, yet popular rankings, Morse has been at the helm of Best Colleges at U.S. News since 1989.

This year, readers will notice that some institutions were moved from one category to another, and others were added. U.S. News sorts more than 1,600 colleges into four groups: National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities, and Regional Colleges. To do this, researchers rely on the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching's Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Carnegie updated its list in 2010 for the first time since 2006, and those changes were reflected in the 2012 U.S. News list. Morse says the biggest changes in the ranking this year are linked to this category update.

So, the anticipation mounts. While U.S. News has emerged as the go-to list for college rankings (last year's publication had 10 million Internet hits the day it was released), critics urge prospective students to look at a variety of guides to find the best fit. Others to check out: The Fiske Guide, which rates rather than ranks colleges, Newsweek's Best Colleges for You and Washington Monthly's College Guide.

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