U.S. News has once again rated Union College in the top tier for its category in the magazine's highly-anticipated annual rankings. Placing 35th among Midwestern regional colleges, this is the fifth consecutive year Union has earned the title of one of America's best colleges.
While no standardized system can account for unique institutional strengths or the individual needs of students, Union College administrators are proud to see the institution compare favorably with its peers.
"I am pleased to see this recognition of so many dedicated faculty, staff, students and others who make Union College a continued success," said David Smith, college president. "It affirms our mission, both as an institution and as individuals."
Changes in rankings are often due more to modified methodology than institutional changes. This year, increased emphasis on the average graduation rate may have moved Union up slightly. A frequent criticism of the rankings is that they measure a school's ability to attract top students rather than create them.
"I'm glad to see a little more emphasis on student outcomes in the methodology this year," said Smith. "We aren't a school that only accepts the best and brightest out of high school. We're proud to work alongside students who represent a broad spectrum of backgrounds and ability, giving them opportunities and support to do amazing things."
While a low student-teacher ratio and small class sizes also bolster the college's score, the category in which Union most visibly surpasses other institutions each year is the rate of alumni giving. With 33 percent of alumni supporting the college annually, Union's percentage was the fifth highest among regional colleges nationwide and the second highest in the Midwest.
"Our alumni believe in their alma mater," said LuAnn Davis, vice president for Advancement. "Their loyalty is exemplary as they give back faithfully to provide present and future generations the opportunity to experience the spirit at Union. Their gifts are a testament to their belief in the vision of the college."
The rankings have been published since 1983 as a tool for prospective students and their parents. While many academics question the publication's methodology, the list remains the most comprehensive and well-known direct comparison of schools.
This year, 319 regional colleges, divided into four regions, are included in the report. The regional college category includes institutions with an undergraduate focus that grant fewer than 50 master's degrees each year and offer a range of degrees in professional fields such as business, journalism, nursing and education with liberal arts degrees accounting for fewer than half of the bachelor's degrees conferred.
How schools are ranked
U.S.News relies on statistics provided by colleges and universities as well as surveys of administrators from peer institutions to produce the rankings. The schools are grouped according to their classification by the Carnegie Foundation so that institutions with similar goals, such as undergraduate education or postgraduate research, are compared against each other. The following 14 performance indicators are weighted to find the composite score for baccalaureate colleges.