This year's scoring methods were changed to place greater emphasis on performance factors like six-year college graduation rates and freshman retention, Morse said. Other factors, including selectivity, play a lesser role than they have in years past, he said.
While those changes may have caused some schools to move up or down in the rankings, other schools may see changes because they performed better or worse than they had in certain categories.
“You have to look at schools on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
The U.S. News and World Report list is one of the most widely known college ranking guides in the country. But critics say they aren't an accurate representation of how colleges actually perform.
During a speech on college affordability last month at the University at Buffalo, President Barack Obama singled the rankings out, saying they focus too little on educational outcomes and present too many opportunities for colleges and universities to manipulate their scores.
“It actually rewards them, in some cases, for raising costs,” Obama said. “I think we should rate colleges based on opportunity.”
Last month, Obama directed U.S. Department of Education officials to develop an alternative college rating system that they say would allow students and parents to pick a school based on value and affordability.