For the third-straight year, Yale finished third in U.S. News & World Report’s national college rankings — a positioning a U.S. News official said was largely due to the University’s 10th place finish in a category measuring faculty resources.

Princeton and Harvard universities, which tied for first in the overall rankings, finished second and third, respectively, in that category, which measures class size, faculty salary, number of professors with the highest degrees in their fields, student-faculty ratio and number of full time faculty. The University of Pennsylvania, which finished fourth overall, finished first in faculty resources.

“The faculty ranking is a heavily-weighted category,” said U.S. News Director of Data Research Robert Morse, whose daughter attended Yale. “There is a meaningful difference in this particular category.”

Other categories considered in the overall rankings include financial resources, student selectivity and alumni giving. Yale received an overall score of 98, two points behind its Ivy rivals.

In response to the rankings, Yale spokeswoman Gila Reinstein praised Yale’s faculty.

“We have an extraordinarily capable and dedicated faculty,” she said. “I don’t think any school has better.”

The specific ranking earned has little effect on the Yale administration, Reinstein added.

“We are always delighted to be in the company of the finest schools in the United States,” Reinstein said. “We don’t pay attention to the tiny ups and downs of the rankings year to year.”

Though Yale finished in third place, Ben Wildavsky ’86, U.S. News’ education editor and the editor of U.S. News’ college guide, said the difference between Yale and the schools that finished higher is not significant.

“It’s really a difference of a few decimal points,” Wildavsky said. “It’s really close. Between the third-ranked school and the 30th-ranked school … that’s more of a real difference.”

The data used for the U.S. News’ rankings is reported by the colleges themselves. The survey’s response rate — which was at 67 percent in 2002 — fell to 57 percent this year. Morse attributed this to a small number of people who are protesting the survey and the idea of ranking schools in general.

But Wildavsky, as well as the staff behind the U.S. News report, emphasized that the rankings are only one piece of information in a much larger college selection process.

“The rankings are really just one component,” he said. “No student should make decisions based just on numerical rankings. We’re very careful in telling people that they have to do their homework. You shouldn’t be slavishly listening to the rankings.”

The University of Pennsylvania received 95 points in the rankings, and Duke and Stanford universities tied for fifth place with scores of 94.