JMU Quad (copy)

JMU placed 281st nationwide in The Wall Street Journal's annual college ranking.

Bragging rights and bewailing inevitably follow annual nationwide college lists. JMU alumni may resort to the latter after seeing where their alma mater fell in the most recent ranking.

JMU placed 281st overall and eighth in Virginia out of 800 colleges in The Wall Street Journal’s best colleges 2021 rankings published Thursday.

The school followed the University of Virginia (No. 51), the University of Richmond (No. 59), Washington and Lee University (No. 71), William & Mary (No. 73), Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (No. 109), Virginia Military Institute (No. 151) and George Mason University (No. 178) in the rankings.

JMU placed 109th in student outcomes, which included graduates’ salaries and debt and made up 40% of the ranking; outside the top 400 in resources and environment, which counted for 30% and 10%, respectively; and 111th in engagement, which composed of 20% of the ranking.

Its overall score was 54.2 out of 100, compared to 74.3 for UVa and 65.8 for Virginia Tech. That’s composed of a 9.1 out of 30 in resources, 16.8 out of 20 in engagement, 25.2 out of 40 in outcomes and 3.1 out of 10 in environment.

Due to the pandemic, Times Higher Education and The Wall Street Journal, which partnered to conduct the ranking, were unable to complete student surveys.

That’s why JMU’s score of 54.2 is unchanged from last year, where it placed 279th and ninth in Virginia, passing Hampden-Sydney College intrastate despite falling two spots nationally.

JMU rank graph

JMU's composite score is climbing, according to The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education, though it's unchanged in this year's rankings.

Sign up for the Madison Business Review Email

Since 2017, JMU’s national rank is trending upward. The school placed 372nd in 2017, 409th in 2018, 328th in 2019, 279th in 2020 and is 281st heading into 2021.

JMU alumni make an average of $54,333 10 years after entering college and graduate with $20,500 in debt, on average, according to The Wall Street Journal. The school spends $12,240 per student on academics, the study found.

The Harrisonburg-based university’s average net price of $17,753 was fifth-lowest in the state behind VMI ($14,799), William & Mary ($15,622), Radford University ($15,636) and Old Dominion University ($15,917).

Regardless of where JMU fell on the rankings, Dukes are on average highly pleased with their college choice, The Wall Street Journal found.

Surveys showed JMU faithful gave their school a 9.1 out of 10 when asked if they’d choose their school again, an 8.6 out of 10 when asked if they felt “surrounded by exceptional students who inspire and motivate you” and an 8.6 out of 10 on if their school is worth the cost or not.

That reflects another survey from The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education in 2018, which found that JMU was the most recommended university in the nation. It’s currently No. 2 in those rankings behind Samford University, a private Christian university in Homewood, Alabama.

James Faris is a senior media arts and design major. Contact James at

“Don’t try and be right, try and get it right.” This might be a simple phrase, but to a journalist, it represents the essential core beliefs that the profession stands for. The truth is out there, we just have to be willing to search for it.