U.S. News ranks Union among America's best colleges

U.S. News has once again rated Union College as one of America's "Best Colleges" in the magazine's highly-anticipated annual rankings. In a five-way tie for 43rd place in the Midwestern regional colleges category, this is the eighth consecutive year Union has earned a spot in the top tier of higher educational institutions.

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 John Wagner, college president. "It affirms our mission, both as an institution and as individuals."

Union's composite score of 55 is the third highest of any institution in Nebraska. While a low student-teacher ratio and small class sizes play key roles in the college's score, the category in which Union most visibly surpasses other institutions each year is the rate of alumni giving, a measurement the rankings use as an indirect indication of student satisfaction. 

"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."

Union College also stands out in its ethnic diversity, a statistic that does not figure into the rankings but is noted by the magazine in a seperate, online-only feature. With 14 percent of the student body belonging to ethnic minorities, Union College is the third most diverse institution in the Midwest regional colleges category. "If anything, that number underestimates the amount of diversity on our campus," said Nadine Nelson, vice president for Enrollment and Student Financial Services. "Only US citizens count towards the ethnic diversity numbers reported to the Department of Education, meaning the international students who make up seven percent of our student body are not represented." 

The rankings have been published since 1983 as a tool for prospective students and their parents. While many in academia question the publication's methodology and reject the premise of the rankings, the list remains the most comprehensive and well-known direct comparison of schools. 

This year, 367 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 15 performance indicators are weighted to find the composite score for regional colleges such as Union.


Percentage of overall

Assessment by peers 22.5
Six-year graduation rate 18
The difference between statistically predicted graduation rate and actual graduation rate 7.5
Freshman retention rate 4.5
Proportion of classes with fewer than 20 students 6
Proportion of classes with fewer than 50 students 2
Average faculty remuneration 7
Proportion of professors with terminal degrees 3
Student-faculty ratio 1
Proportion of full-time faculty 1
Admissions test scores 8.125
Percentage of students who graduated in the top quarter of their high school class 3.125
Ratio of admitted students to applicants 1.25
Average spending per student by the institution (excluding sports, dorms and hospitals) 10
Percentage of alumni who donate to the school 5