California State University, Fresno was singled out as the nation’s best public university in graduation rate performance in U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 Best College rankings issued today.

The graduation rate performance category uses the university’s actual performance as compared to predicted performance based on student demographics, including spending per student, admissions selectivity and the proportion of undergraduates receiving Pell grants. Fresno State scored highest among public universities and was No. 3 overall.

Fresno State’s reclassification as a doctoral university means it has joined the top research universities in the nation in rankings produced by the magazine. This year the University ranked in the first tier of all schools and was No. 220 in the nation. Princeton University was ranked No. 1.

“To be evaluated in the same league as universities like Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Stanford speaks to the bold level of educational opportunity and quality we offer the students of the Central Valley,” said Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro. “The leap we took into the national rankings is like moving into the academic equivalent of the top athletic conference.

“Student success is one of the priorities in our new Strategic Plan, and it’s clear that academics and athletics are rising together at Fresno State,” Castro said.

Among the 23 campuses in the California State University system, Fresno State is one of four to compete at the national level, including San Diego State University (No. 146) and CSU Fullerton (No. 202) in the first tier and San Francisco State (No. 256) in the second tier.

Last year, before Fresno State was elevated to the higher national doctoral university category, it was considered a master’s degree university and ranked No. 12 among public regional universities in the West.

U.S. News and World Report evaluates campuses on multiple factors. The magazine gives the most weight to graduation and retention rates and undergraduate academic reputation, followed by faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation rate performance and alumni giving.

Fresno State achieved a strong showing despite reporting far lower educational expenditure per student than most universities. Yale, which ranked No. 3 overall, spends the most, an average of $222,546 per student each year. The national average is $37,373, while Fresno State spends just $12,030 per student each year.

“Fresno State is providing life changing educational opportunities for our students, more than two-thirds of whom will be the first in their families to earn a college degree,” said Provost Lynnette Zelezny. “Our inclusion in the national rankings speaks to the growing academic distinction of our students and faculty.”

The positive news of the U.S. News ranking follows last month’s ranking of Fresno State as No. 25 in the nation by Washington Monthly, a D.C.-based magazine that ranks institutions on social mobility, research and service. That magazine cited Fresno State as an “instructive example” of schools that enroll many low-income students and help them graduate.

In August, the higher education strategy consulting firm, Firetail, identified Fresno State in their “Class of 2030,” which consists of a new generation of what they call “challenger” universities that have an opportunity to become globally renowned in the next 10 to 20 years. Fresno State was named a “rising star” among the 346 institutions they examined.