The University of Connecticut has been ranked the 18th top public university in a U.S. News & World Report list released Tuesday.

The No. 18 ranking places UConn ahead of many other noted schools and reflects the university’s strides in retention and graduation rates, reputation among peer institutions and guidance counselors, and other factors measured by the rankings.

U.S. News & World Report’s list placed Sacred Heart University in Fairfield as fourth in the north region in 2018 in terms of innovation.

The annual publication, also has a list for campuses with the highest international student bodies — and the University of Bridgeport is close to the top in the north with 14 percent.

Looking for a campus focused on good instruction, Fairfield University, in addition to ranking third overall in the north, is also ranked third in the north for having a faculty with an unusually strong commitment to teaching.

The annual rankings give college bound students and their families, a guide to more than 1,400 U.S. universities.

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Connecticut colleges to make 2018 U.S. News Best Colleges Rankings

National Universities

3. Yale University

56. University of Connecticut

176. University of Hartford

Best Regional Universities North

3. Fairfield University

13. Quinnipiac University, Hamden

41. Sacred Heart University, Fairfield

78. University of St. Joseph, West Hartford

85. Eastern Connecticut State University, Willimantic

94. University of New Haven

94. Central Connecticut State University, New Britain

116. Albertus Magnus College, New Haven

120. Western Connecticut State University, Danbury

130. Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven

Second Tier schools, listed but not ranked:

University of Bridgeport

National Liberal arts Colleges

21. Wesleyan University, Middletown

44. Trinity College, Hartford

46. Connecticut College, New London

Overall, Princeton University ranked first nationwide for the seventh straight year, with Yale University ranking third — sharing the spot for a second year with the University of Chicago.

The University of Connecticut is 56th on that national list — up from 60 in 2017.

More important to UConn officials, is its standing among public universities and in 2018 it rose to 18th nationwide — in a tie with University of Texas-Austin, University of Washington and Purdue.

It is the highest UConn has climbed on the national public college list. UConn President Susan Herbst was thrilled.

“This is a reflection of our core academic strength and UConn’s exceptional faculty, staff, students and leaders — and state investment over many years,” Herbst said in a prepared statement.

The upward trajectory was accomplished, she added, despite ongoing cuts to UConn’s appropriation from the state.

UConn also made strides in another important area in this year’s U.S. News rankings: It now is No. 24 nationwide among the Best Colleges for Veterans, up from No. 36 last year.

UConn ties for that No. 24 spot in the category with the same peers with which it shares the overall No. 18 position, along with George Washington University.

Among all public and private universities in the rankings, UConn’s position at No. 56 was a move upward from last year’s No. 60 spot, and places the University among the top 5 percent of all institutions nationwide.

What the scores mean

The rankings focus on 15 indicators of academic excellence and student outcomes, including class size, test scores of incoming students and graduation rates.

Campuses with significantly higher graduation and freshman retention rates score the highest.

The average six-year graduation rate is 96 percent for the top 10 National Universities and 92.5 percent for the top 10 National Liberal Arts Colleges. Those schools also retain 96.5 percent of their freshmen or better.

“Before taking out student loans or writing a tuition check, families should research graduation and retention rates,” Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer of U.S. News, said. “Colleges that saddle students with debt but do little to support them through graduation are contributing to a vicious cycle.”

Many colleges have a love/hate relationship with the rankings, insisting they are only one factor college-bound students consider.

One ranking colleges prefer not to score high on concerns student debt. U.S. News compiled a list of the schools whose Class of 2016 graduated with the heaviest and lightest debt loads. Among regional university’s in the north, Quinnipiac came in fifth with an average debt of $47,217 by graduation. Some 71 percent of Quinnipac students left with debt.

By comparison, Yale grads leave with an average loan debt of $13,625, one of the lowest nationwide.

Dominic Yoia, Quinnipiac’s director of financial aid said what students there borrow, they pay back. The university has just a 1.4 percent default rate on student loans, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

“Our graduates are securing jobs with salaries that allow them to pay off their student loans,” Yoia said.

What about Connecticut?

In the north region, Fairfield University ranked third, Quinnpiac in Hamden ranked 13th and Sacred Heart 41. Eight other university were ranked on the list, including the state’s four regional public universities — Western, Southern, Central and Eastern.

Beyond the overall rankings, students can research schools with the most diversity — both economic and ethnic. There is a list for best value, best colleges for “B” students and best schools depending on intended major.

The list of most “innovative” schools is somewhat new and is based on a survey of college presidents, provosts and admissions deans asked to name institutions they think are making the most improvements in curriculum faculty, campus life, and facilities.

“Being considered one of the most innovative universities is a result of our mission and careful strategic planning,” Kim Primicerio, a Sacred Heart spokeswoman said. “Sacred Heart never rests, however, and we will continue striving to meet our mission, goals and potential to serve our students and our community.”

At Fairfield University, officials celebrate not only its third place ranking in the north, but also making it onto the national list for its undergraduate business program, third in the north for teaching undergraduates, and a new category devoted to service learning program excellence.

“The rankings that Fairfield continues to achieve are a reflection of the quality of our faculty, staff, and students, both in the learning environment we create here on campus, as well as the amazing achievements of our alumni,” said Fairfield President Mark R. Nemec.