|Change in Rankings for 2007
August 17, 2007
A change in categories has meant that the ranking for Calvin College in the annual America's Best Colleges guidebook from U.S. News & World Report looks very different this year.
Last year Calvin was ranked first by U.S. News & World Report in the category of "Midwest Comprehensive Bachelor's Colleges." There were about 110 colleges and universities in that category last year.
This year Calvin was moved to a national category called "Liberal Arts Colleges" and was ranked 116th among the approximately 270 schools in the category.
Calvin officials note that the key areas which U.S. News & World Report measures -- things like graduation rate, retention rate, alumni giving, percentage of class taught by fulltime faculty, etc. -- have not changed at Calvin from last year to this year.
"Calvin is the same school it was a year ago, but simply in a different category this year," says director of admissions and financial aid Dale Kuiper. "One of the biggest factors in the change for Calvin from last year to this probably was our peer reputation score. In our old Midwest category we scored the best of any school in peer assessment, a rating that measures what presidents, provosts and deans of admissions at Calvin's competitors think of our academic programs."
Peer assessment accounts for 25 percent of a school's overall ranking.
"Switching categories," says Kuiper, "meant jumping into a group where fewer of our new peers know us the way our old peers did. That hurt our ranking."
Kuiper notes too that Calvin's new category features a lot of schools with really significant financial resources.
"At $80 million," he says, "our endowment is tiny compared to some of our new national competitors. We know we need to increase our endowment and our financial resources to sustain and maintain Calvin for the next century. However, the schools in our new category have a huge head start on us in that area. The top schools in our new category have endowments over a billion dollars!"
Kuiper says Calvin's different admissions strategy also hurt the college in its new category.
"The average acceptance rate of the top 25 in our new category is 31 percent compared to our 98 percent," he says. "We admit a high percentage of those we encourage to apply here at Calvin, while most of our new competitors do not; they reject about seven in 10 applicants. That didn't hurt us as much in our old category; it does in our new category."
Calvin officials continue to stress a message they stressed even when the college was the top-ranked school in the Midwest: the best way to measure a prospective college is to visit campuses, talk to current students, check out college and university Web sites, e-mail professors, sit in on a class and stay overnight in a residence hall.
"The bottom line for Calvin," says Kuiper, "is we are a Christian college that provides a first-rate academic experience, one we believe is equal to any college in the country. Our graduates are doing amazing work of renewal in God's world. They are making a difference. That's an affirmation of our educational enterprise that goes far beyond a ranking in a college guide."
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