Though unscientific, rankings serve a purpose
RELEASED: November 6, 2008
The latest entrant into the ranking arena is the well-regarded business magazine Forbes. Acknowledging its intention to provide an alternative to U.S. News, Forbes introduced its "America's Best Colleges" in mid-August. Rather than subdividing its list into various types of institutions, Forbes chose to create only one grouping based on the following rationale: When choosing a college, prospective students ultimately select only one, meaning that all undergraduate institutions are competing with one another for students. It is not as though a high school senior selects one large, public school and one small, private school. The senior picks only one, and our ranking reflects that decision process."
Thus, in addition to being measured against Amherst, Swarthmore, and Williams, Centre was grouped with Harvard, Princeton, Yale, MIT, Stanford and a host of other universities.
The result? Forbes ranked Centre 13th among all U.S. colleges and universities - four slots behind Yale, one above MIT and 10 above Stanford.
Unlike U.S. News which largely measures inputs such as reputation and resources, Forbes focused on the experience and outcomes of students and used such measures as listings of alumni in Who's Who in America, Web-based professor ran kings, the amount of student debt at graduation, the percentage graduating in four years, and the percentage of students or faculty who have won nationally competitive awards like Rhodes Scholarships, Fulbright Awards, or Nobel Prizes.
The magazine noted that Centre was in the top 10 percent of schools on all criteria and followed up its Best Colleges list with an online article ( http://www.forbes.com/opinions/2008/08/28/centre-college-kentucky-oped-college08-cx_hra_0829centre.html) that focuses exclusively on the College.
Centre was the only institution among the nearly 600 schools that were ranked to be featured in a profile article. After a visit to campus, opinions editor Hana Alberts wrote, "Centre has proved to be one of the best schools in the country, thanks to a philosophy that produces well-rounded grads and prizes intellectual curiosity. Administrators emphasize intimate student-faculty relationships - and nurse a fiercely loyal alumni community." Alberts concluded her article by noting that, "Far from Danville, people are taking note of Centre's success ... And students are starting to see that top jobs and Ivy League graduate schools are within their grasp."
Inherent absurdity in rankings
And yet the rankings and guidebooks of all kinds do affect people's behavior. Though not scientific, Forbes high ranking of Centre and its laudatory article will bring the College to the attention of many individuals previously unfamiliar with it and will put us "on some lists" from which we might otherwise have been omitted.
But while this ranking, and indeed any individual ranking, is in any number of ways arbitrary, I would argue that when considered collectively the rankings and college guides have substance.
If a school is highly ranked and regarded in virtually all the lists and guidebooks - which make their determinations based on widely varying methodologies - it's fairly likely that good things are happening in terms of the education being provided to young men and women on that campus.
This is the case with Centre College to a remarkable degree. Wherever you look - from U.S. News to Forbes to Colleges That Change Lives to the National Survey of Student Engagement, you'll find Centre among the leaders. Very few educational institutions in America are regarded so favorably by so many. Still, some will say that ranking colleges in any form is a misguided practice that should go away. To those folks we say, fair enough. If you really want to form an accurate impression of Centre, come visit us in person. And more people are taking us up on this offer. Last year, campus visits were up a record-breaking 25 percent over 2006-07 (also a recordbreaking year), and this year visits are well up over last year. With all the other good things going on in the life of the college - from a stunning and ongoing series of campus enhancements, to a record-breaking year in fund raising, to record-breaking applications and enrollment - third party validations of Centre is a trend that's likely to continue. So, while rankings should certainly be taken with a large grain of salt, it is a good thing that wherever those who use them turn, they will find Centre in the mix of America's educational leaders.
OTHER CENTRE RANKINGS
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Consumers Digest ranks Centre No. 1 in educational value among all U.S. liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
For news archives go to http://www.centre.edu/web/news/newsarchive.html.
600 W. Walnut Street
Danville, KY 40422