Washington-area universities made a respectable showing on the 2010 U.S. News and World Report list of best colleges, with two institutions ranked as among the top 15 in their categories and two local schools heading the list of "up and coming colleges."

Best National
Universities (2010)

1. Harvard (Mass.)
2. Princeton (N.J.)
3. Yale (Conn.)
4. CalTech (Calif.)
4. MIT (Mass.)
4. Stanford (Calif.)
4. Penn (Penn.)
8. Columbia (N.Y.)
8. U. of Chicago (Ill.)
10. Duke (N.C.)
Local universities: 
14. Johns Hopkins (Md.)
23. Georgetown (D.C.)
24. U. of Virginia
33. William & Mary (Va.)
53. George Washington (D.C.)
53. University of Maryland,
College Park
71. Virginia Tech
84. American University (D.C.)
96. Howard University (D.C.)

Best Liberal Arts
Colleges (2010)

1. Williams (Mass.)
2. Amherst (Mass.)
3. Swarthmore (Penn.)
4. Middlebury (Vt.)
4. Wellesley (Mass.)
6. Bowdoin (Maine)
6. Pomona (Calif.)
8. Carleton (Minn.)
8. Davidson (N.C.)
10. Haverford (Penn.)
Local colleges:

14. Washington & Lee (Va.)
19. U.S. Naval Academy (Md.)
30. University of Richmond (Va.)
62. Virginia Military Institute
77. Sweet Briar College (Va.)
92. St. Mary’s College of Maryland
97. Hampden-Sydney College (Va.)

Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University earned 14th place among national universities, behind top-ranked Harvard, Princeton and Yale. Among liberal arts colleges, Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., also placed 14th, behind top-ranked Williams, Amherst and Swarthmore.

University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Virginia's George Mason University took the top two spots among those seen as up and coming. It was the second straight year both finished in the top five among institutions seen as on the rise: Mason ranked first in the category last year while UMBC took fifth.

"The campus is excited for the national visibility," said Freeman Hrabowski, president of UMBC. He added, however, that he is "most excited about the recognition of the quality of undergraduate teaching, and the fact that we tied for fourth place with Stanford among all national universities" in that category.

The annual best-of list ranks nearly all types of four-year higher education, and can serve as a boon or an embarrassment depending upon its widely-anticipated results.

George Mason's high marks last year helped boost freshman applications to 14,000 this year, compared to 13,000 last year, according to the school's dean of admissions.

The University of Maryland, College Park, ranked 53rd overall among national universities, compared to 24th place for the University of Virginia. Maryland, however, was singled out for excellence in five "programs to look for," including ample opportunities for service learning and undergraduate research.

"We certainly feel like the programs [the magazine] pointed out are very student-oriented, and therefore speak to some of the things we do really well," said university spokesman Lee Tune. "We're a big school that knows how to make students feel they're not at a big school."

U.S. News and World Report uses seven categories to rank each school, including reputation among other schools' administrators, student retention rate, and "faculty resources" such as average salary, professors' degree levels, and class size.