Centre College received recognition as a top 50 national liberal arts college in this year’s “Best Colleges” rankings by U.S. News & World Report, excelling in a number of key categories in the process.
In addition to being ranked #49 in the nation among all liberal arts colleges, Centre was ranked #44 in the nation by high school counselors, #30 for best value, #7 for alumni giving and #4 for study abroad.
As always, the competition was fierce.
According to U.S. News, this year’s installment considered nearly 1,800 colleges and universities, offering data on factors such as tuition, acceptance rates, class sizes, graduation rates, average debt of graduates and much more.
Because the annual rankings interpret this data based on a complex methodology that involves 16 different factors and numerous sub-factors, earning such high marks is a strong endorsement of an institution’s overall mission.
And the methodology is often changing. This year’s rankings, says U.S. News, attempt to measure student outcomes instead of inputs. Graduation and retention rates were given increased weight, as a result, in addition to “return on investment” factors.
Centre’s continued record of achievement in these areas clearly contributed to the high national ranking. For instance, the College’s overall graduation and retention ranking improved from #47 to #44 in the nation from a year ago. Centre’s predicted and actual graduation rates were also stronger, and they increased, respectively, from 82 to 84 percent and 82 to 87 percent.
The College’s financial position also had a positive influence in the rankings methodology, because it demonstrates the investment the College can make in its programs and faculty. Centre’s overall financial resources rank improved from 79 to 76 in the nation, and the faculty resources rank improved even more, gaining 13 spots, from 97 to 84 overall.
Long known for its attention to a deeply personal and intensely engaging education, another factor that weighed in Centre’s favor was class size. The percentage of classes with under 20 students jumped positively, from 53 to 60 percent, tying a previous year’s high.
All that said, the College’s president, John A. Roush, often counsels the campus community to take the rankings with a grain of salt.
Yes, he says, Centre continues to do well by any measure. However, he always adds, “we choose not to allow these rankings to define who we are or what we seek to become.”
And on this matter President Roush has remained consistent throughout his now 15-year tenure as president. Centre aspires to be a place of high achievement and high opportunity.
The high overall national ranking at #49 clearly affirms the former, but the even higher “best value” ranking at #30 in the nation among liberal arts colleges (an increase by one spot over last year) affirms the latter.
The methodology for this important category takes into account academic quality and average level of need-based financial aid. Or, as U.S. News put it, “The higher the quality of the program and the lower the cost, the better the deal.”
Not only does Centre remain among the nation’s most affordable top-50 colleges, but it is also committed to keeping rising tuition costs at a minimum—holding them to no more than 3 percent annually, all while increasing financial aid. Last year, Centre gave out more than $23 million in financial aid.
Much of this occurs because of the perennially high percentage of alumni giving, where Centre again ranked among the top 10 in the nation, coming in at #7 this year. Alumni giving rates are generally seen as one of the best possible endorsements of the educational experience, and Centre graduates continue to “pay it forward” to successive generations of students.
A hallmark of a Centre education is also a commitment to global citizenship that is based on more than simply classroom study of other cultures. The #4 national ranking for study abroad is based on a phenomenal participation rate of 86 percent, a number accrued by no accident. The College guarantees all students the opportunity to study abroad as part of the Centre Commitment—even providing a free passport to entering students who do not have one.
With eight residential programs that span the globe, Centre students may select among semester-long options in China, England, France, Japan, Mexico, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Spain. Just this fall, Centre established its newest program in China, giving students the opportunity to study at Tongji University, a school near Shanghai that is regarded as of one of the top 10 universities in China.
These factors are likely what has encouraged high school counselors in increasing numbers to recommend a Centre education. Over the last three years alone, Centre has improved 9 spots in this category, moving from #53 to #50 to this year’s ranking of #44.
No better proof of these rankings can be seen than in the College’s continued ability to exceed enrollment targets and recruit increasingly stronger and more diverse classes of students, as is the case with the Class of 2017.
“Centre continues to move from strength to strength,” says President Roush, “and it’s thanks to a talented faculty committed to transformational educational experiences for curious and hard-working young men and women.
“Proud as we are of this year’s rankings,” Roush added, “our attention will always focus on making a difference for good in the lives of others, and we hope that inspires prospective students to consider a Centre education.”
By Michael Strysick