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Calvin Moves Up In US News Rankings
August 18, 2006

Calvin College is the best school in the Midwest in its category of comprehensive bachelor's colleges according to the 2007 edition of "America's Best Colleges," the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings guide that is slated to hit newsstands on Monday, August 21.

We're #1 (Okay, Tied For #1)Calvin is tied for the top spot with St. Mary's, Ind., in the 107-school category, which encompasses Midwest colleges and universities that focus on undergraduate education and offer a range of degree programs, both 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.

That tied-for-first ranking is up one spot from both 2005 and 2004 when Calvin was second in the category behind St. Mary's, a women's Catholic college in South Bend that is Notre Dame's sister school.

For the fifth consecutive year U.S. News is publishing a list of schools with outstanding examples of academic programs that are believed to lead to student success. With the help of education experts, including staff members of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, they identified eight such types of programs and then invited college presidents, chief academic officers, deans of students, and deans of admissions from over 1,300 schools to nominate up to 10 institutions with stellar examples of each program type. Colleges and universities that were mentioned most often are listed. Calvin was named to three such lists:

Senior capstone
Whether they're called a senior capstone or by some other name, these culminating experiences ask students nearing the end of their college years to create a project of some sort that integrates and synthesizes what they've learned. The project might be a thesis, a performance, or an exhibit of artwork.

Undergraduate research/Creative projects
Independently or in small teams, and mentored by a faculty member, students do intensive and self-directed research or creative work that results in an original scholarly paper or other product that can be formally presented on or off campus.

Service learning
In service-learning programs, volunteering in the community is an instructional strategy--and a requirement of a student's coursework. The service relates to what happens in class and vice versa.

Calvin director of admissions Dale Kuiper is pleased to see Calvin recognized as the best school in its category.

"The number-one ranking is a positive thing," he says, "for our students and for prospective students. And it's also encouraging news for alumni, parents, donors and friends of the college. But rankings can be a controversial thing in the world of higher education.

"Finding a college is quite a bit different than buying a car or a fridge. The data available in guides like U.S. News can be helpful to high school students, parents, guidance counselors and others. And it provides a convenient collection of criteria like graduation rates, first-year retention rates, class sizes and student-faculty ratios. But those are only a few of the many ways that should be used to measure whether a student will fit well with a particular college."

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, third-ranked Taylor, Ind., is an interdenominational, evangelical college and number-four St. Norbert is a Catholic college in the Norbertine tradition.

U.S News & World Report has been ranking colleges since 1983 and schools annually are rated 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.

Kuiper was pleased by that, noting 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 (91%), freshman retention rate (87%), graduation rate (74%) and alumni giving rate (33%).

In fact Calvin was third-best in its category for graduation rate and fourth-best in its category for alumni giving.