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Washington Monthly Lists Gardner-Webb as a Top Five Private College in North Carolina for Second Year

Four female graduates pose after the ceremony with their diplomas

National Rankings Based on Social Mobility, Research and Public Service

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—In its 2022 and 2023 National University Rankings, Washington Monthly placed Gardner-Webb University in the top five among private colleges in North Carolina. This honor is based on excellence in three areas: social mobility, research, and promoting public service.

“We committed some time ago to ensuring that Gardner-Webb would not simply be a ‘hidden gem’ or North Carolina’s ‘best kept secret,’” affirmed GWU President Dr. William M. Downs. “With this latest recognition from a respected national publication, our amazing team of students and staff is receiving some well-deserved attention. GWU’s mission is solid and our effort is relentless…we’ll keep climbing the ladder.”

Only 442 schools in the U.S. were named to the National University list, which is the magazine’s highest tier of U.S. colleges, reserved for colleges that award a significant number of doctoral degrees. Gardner-Webb was one of 15 public and private schools in North Carolina that met the criteria for the National tier. GWU also ranked above Campbell (N.C.), Liberty University (Va.), Tulane (La.), Robert Morris (Penn.), Baylor (Texas) and Southern Methodist (Texas).

Among other private schools in the Carolinas, Gardner-Webb ranked in a higher tier than Queens University (N.C.), Anderson University (S.C.), Lenoir Rhyne (N.C.), and Methodist University (N.C.).

Additional categories defined by the magazine are: the Liberal Arts Colleges (featuring baccalaureate colleges that focus on arts and sciences rather than professional programs); the Master’s tier (acknowledging institutions awarding a significant number of master’s degrees but few or no doctoral degrees); and the Bachelor’s Colleges (recognizing those schools offering almost exclusively bachelor’s degrees).

Founded in 2005, Washington Monthly’s College Guide and Rankings evaluates schools based on student and graduate outcomes and opportunities. The list was founded to spotlight four-year liberal arts colleges that emphasize the arts and sciences within an environment that nurtures those seeking undergraduate degrees.

Scores are determined by using the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Social mobility is based on the graduate rate, the number of Pell recipients earning bachelor’s degrees, and post-college outcomes. The research score is calculated from the total amount of an institution’s research spending; the number of undergraduate alumni who have gone on to receive a Ph.D. in any subject; the number of faculty receiving prestigious awards; and the number of faculty in the National Academies. Public service is measured by service in AmeriCorps or Peace Corps, ROTC programs, and community service projects.  

Private N.C. Universities on the National Tier

  • Duke
  • Wake Forest
  • Elon
  • Wingate
  • Gardner-Webb
  • Campbell

Public N.C. Universities on the National Tier

  • N.C. A&T
  • UNC-Chapel Hill
  • UNC-Charlotte
  • East Carolina University
  • UNC-Greensboro
  • N.C. State
  • Western Carolina
  • UNC-Wilmington
  • Winston-Salem State

The full Washington Monthly List is available here.

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at

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