College-bound students and admissions officers, take note: U.S. News and World Report released its annual college rankings for 2012 on Tuesday, offering the latest snapshot of the higher-education hierarchy.

Drawn from statistical questionnaires completed by the schools (the methodology is questioned by some), the rankings include some familiar names while some previously lesser-known schools slowly ascend the rankings. Harvard, Yale and Princeton maintained their grip on the top three spots for best national universities, while Williams, Amherst and Swarthmore represented the best national liberal arts college triumvirate.

The Best Value College category, defined by the ratio between the quality of the education and the cost of attendance for a student who received the average amount of financial aid, was also topped by some heavy hitters: Harvard, Yale and Princeton were followed by Stanford and MIT.

While the lists may have been topped by perennial powerhouses, there was plenty of movement lower down the list relative to past rankings. Drexel University shot up nearly 40 spots to crack the top 100, American University ascended from 99 to 79 and Fordham University rose to 56.

Other schools lost their footing: eminent public schools like the University of Virginia, University of California Berkeley (and Los Angeles as well) and North Carolina State University continued their slide. Cornell University fell out of the top 10 universities, while mainstays Wesleyan and Smith no longer make the top 10 liberal arts schools.

Here are the top 10 rankings:

Best National University

1. Harvard University

2. Princeton University

3. Yale University

4. Columbia University

5. California Institute of Technology

6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

7. Stanford University

8. University of Chicago

9. University of Pennsylvania

10. Duke University


Best National Liberal Arts College

1. Williams College

2. Amherst College

3. Swarthmore College

4. Pomona College

5. Middlebury College

6. Bowdoin College

7. Carleton College

8. Wellesley College

9. Claremont McKenna College

10. Haverford College


Best Value Colleges

1. Harvard University

2. Yale University

3. Princeton University

4. Stanford University

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

6. Columbia University

7. Dartmouth College

8. California Institute of Technology

9. Duke University

10. Cornell University