Among national public universities, the University of South Carolina improved its ranking by three spots to 52nd while Clemson University, now ranked 23rd, rose a spot, according to lists released today by U.S. News & World Report.

In a separate category, regional schools in the South, both the College of Charleston and The Citadel rose one spot and are now ranked 11th and sixth, respectively. The rankings are a part of the 2011 "America's Best Colleges Guide."

While they're closely tracked by many school administrators, critics have charged that the U.S. News rankings are subjective and should not be used as a definitive measure of a school's quality.

Despite that, Clemson President James Barker has pushed to break his school into the top 20 among national public universities.

"We're extremely pleased that Clemson continues to be ranked among the nation's top 25 public universities," Barker said in a release today. "It is a tribute to the quality of the educational experience we provide and the hard work of our faculty, staff and students, especially in difficult times."

USC President Harris Pastides also upheld the reputation of the rankings.

"It is always gratifying to be recognized, and we are proud of the strides our faculty and students continue to make to warrant inclusion on these prestigious lists," he said in a statement.

Jimmie Foster Jr., College of Charleston's director of freshman admissions, chimed in on his school's 11th-place ranking among regional universities in the South.

"I'm happy to be where we are," he said.

College of Charleston, to be noted on a list of small public schools in Sunday's Parade magazine, has been the leading target of recent criticism that the state's public college tuition costs have risen too sharply. College of Charleston's tuition is up 14.8 percent from last year. The Citadel, which also has been blasted for its tuition increase, approved a 13 percent jump over last year.

The Citadel's reaction to its rating ignores that criticism.

"It's very rewarding for us at The Citadel to see U.S. News and World Report recognize our efforts to provide a top quality academic and leadership experience at an affordable cost," Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa said in a release.