August 20, 2004
Calvin Up One in U.S. News
Calvin College has moved up one spot in its category of Best Midwest Comprehensive Colleges in the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings.
Calvin is the second-best comprehensive college in the midwest according to the 2005 edition of "America's Best Colleges," the annual U.S News guide slated to hit newstands next week. There are 108 schools in Calvin's category; last year U.S. News had Calvin tied for third with St. Norbert, Wis.
St. Mary's College in Indiana is again the top-rated school in Calvin's category, while Taylor, Ind., is third for 2005 (Taylor was second last year). St. Norbert is fourth this year, while Ohio Northern and Otterbein, Ohio, tied for fifth. A quartet of Iowa schools - Wartburg (7th), Dordt and Simpson (tied for 8th) and Central (tied for 10th with Elmhurst, Ill.) - round out the top 10.
Interestingly the top four schools in Calvin's category all have strong religious ties. MIAA colleague St. Mary's is a Catholic women's college, Calvin is part of the Reformed tradition of historic Christianity, Taylor is an interdenominational, evangelical college and St. Norbert is a Catholic college in the Norbertine tradition.
Calvin vice president Tom McWhertor says that schools in Calvin's category focus on undergraduate education and offer a range of degree programs - in the liberal arts, which account for fewer than half of their bachelor's degrees, and in professional fields such as business, nursing and education.
He adds that Calvin's category includes a number of top-notch academic institutions and says: "We're happy to be recognized as one of them."
McWhertor says that while college rankings should not be the sole criteria by which prospective students and their parents measure a college, the various rankings do provide a helpful service.
"The U.S. News guide," he says, "gets a lot of criticism, but the data gathering that they do can be helpful to high school students, parents, guidance counselors and others. Their guide provides a pretty quick way to compare things like graduation rates, freshmen retention rates, size of classes, student-faculty ratio. Now are those the only ways to measure fit with a college? By no means. But there is something to be said for those numbers as a rough guide to the type of school a high school student might want to attend. Graduation rate is not an insignificant stat."
Schools annually are rated by U.S. News in such categories as peer assessment, freshman retention rate, graduation rate, full-time faculty and more. Calvin scored the best of any school in its category in peer assessment, a rating that measures what presidents, provosts and deans of admissions at Calvin's competitors think of the school's academic programs.
McWhertor was pleased by that, saying that "to be recognized positively by one's peers is encouraging."
Calvin also scored high in its category in percentage of faculty who are full-time (92%), freshman retention rate (87%), graduation rate (72%) and alumni giving rate (31%). All of those numbers were up from last year.
U.S News & World Report has been ranking colleges since 1983 and its survey is widely considered to be one of the most thorough. The survey ranks colleges on academic reputation, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving. Calvin has been a top-ranked school 17 of the last 19 years.
Other state schools also received kudos from U.S. News & World Report.
The University of Michigan was tied for 22nd in the category of Best National Universities, while Michigan State University was tied for 71st and Michigan Tech tied for 120th.
In the category of Best Midwest Master's Universities the University of Detroit Mercy was 24th, Aquinas was tied for 48th and Grand Valley was tied for 52nd. Cornerstone was named to the fourth tier (108th to 142nd) in that category.
And in Best National Liberal Arts Colleges, Kalamazoo was tied for 53rd, while Albion was tied for 83rd and Hillsdale and Hope were tied for 96th.