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Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- LSU students walk by the campanile.

LSU climbed a few notches in U.S. News and World Report’s latest ranking of the top schools in the country, while Tulane University and Louisiana Tech slid slightly on the annual sizing-up of university and colleges.

Tulane remains Louisiana’s highest-ranked university at No. 54 — down from last year’s No. 52. Meanwhile, LSU went from 135th to 129th in the “Best Colleges 2015” list released Tuesday.

Louisiana Tech University slipped from 190th to No. 201 this year.

All three made U.S. News’ top tier of national universities — the only three in the state to do so. Northwestern State, Nicholls, McNeese and University of Louisiana at Monroe were ranked as Tier I regional universities, as were Louisiana College and Loyola University. Centenary College of Louisiana and Xavier University of Louisiana each made U.S. News’ ranking of national liberal arts colleges.

The national survey ranks schools based on retention and graduation rates, class size, academic competitiveness, alumni giving and other factors.

Tulane has, in recent years, hovered around the mid-50s in the ranking, which spokesman Michael Strecker said was a result of Hurricane Katrina and its impact on graduation rates, even years after the storm.

“In the coming years, our rankings should improve due to a focus on increasing graduation and retention rates,” Strecker said.

Earlier this year, Forbes.com also ranked Tulane as Louisiana’s top higher education institution and LSU as its next-best.

The U.S. News ranking has Tulane tied with George Washington University, Ohio State University and Pepperdine University in California.

LSU tied with Arizona State University, Ohio University, University of Cincinnati, University of Kentucky and University of Utah. Only two other Southeastern Conference schools — Ole Miss and Mississippi State — came in below LSU on the list.

LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander said the U.S. News ranking doesn’t factor tuition rates, levels of student indebtedness and career outcomes.

“This is troubling since we know that being transparent about the things that really matter to families when it comes to choosing a university is what allows potential students to make the best decision possible,” Alexander said.

The U.S. News and World Report list is lauded each year — particularly when schools earn top tier designations, but as more rankings emerge, leaders have questioned their value.

Alexander is among higher education leaders who have pushed for a federal standardized ranking that highlights affordability.

“Make no mistake: the publication of college rankings is a business enterprise that capitalizes on anxiety about college admissions,” Yale University cautions on its admissions page. “Ranking lists do not provide much useful information for making decisions about where you should apply. Their main flaw is obvious but worth stating: the more or less arbitrary factors that go into the ranking calculations often have little to do with what will be important to your educational experience.”

Louisiana Tech President Les Guice attributed the university’s fourth year on the “Tier One” list to the campus’ faculty and staff.

“It’s their unwavering support for and dedication to providing our students with unique learning opportunities and experiences that has earned Louisiana Tech this ranking among the nation’s top universities,” he said.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of the Louisiana Legislature, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .