U.S. News & World Report ranks UST in ‘America’s Best Colleges’ survey

U.S. News & World Report again has ranked the University of St. Thomas in the third tier of its National Universities category in the magazine’s 2008 " America’s Best Colleges" survey.

U.S. News announced the rankings on Friday, Aug. 17. They are available on its Web site at www.usnews.com; they also will be available in the publication’s newsstand book, America’s Best Colleges, and in the Aug. 27 issue of U.S. News & World Report. Both go on sale today, Aug. 20.

Last year St. Thomas also was listed in the third tier of the National Universities category, with schools ranked 127th to 182nd and not ranked numerically. This year the third tier includes schools ranked 131st through 187th.

St. Thomas also appeared on the magazine’s list of schools whose class of 2006 graduated with the heaviest debt load. In the National Universities category, St. Thomas was 12th with an average of $31,065 borrowed by those students who incurred debt. Data also showed that 66 percent of the class graduated with debt. Seton Hall graduates had the highest average debt, $37,724, and two other Minnesota schools (St. Scholastica and Hamline) finished in the top five, with debt averages higher than $30,000, among master’s institutions.

This is the seventh year that U.S. News has classified St. Thomas in the National Universities category. Prior to 2001, St. Thomas was ranked among Midwest regional universities. The reclassification occurred because of the number of doctorates that St. Thomas confers.

U.S. News’ ranking system relies on selected indicators of academic quality: peer assessment, retention and graduation rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving. Below are St. Thomas data of interest in these categories:

  • Peer assessment (25 percent of score): St. Thomas’ score was 2.5 (on a 1-5 scale, with 5 highest), the same as last year.
  • Graduation and retention (20 percent): This indicator includes six-year graduation rate and freshman retention rate. St. Thomas’ retention rate, 87 percent, and graduation rate, 74 percent, are the same as a year ago.
  • Graduation rate performance (5 percent): This indicator, tied to the previous one, shows the effect of programs and policies on the graduation rate of students after controlling for spending and student aptitude. The difference is measured between a school’s six-year graduation rate for the class that entered in 2000 and the predicted rate for the class. St. Thomas’ predicted rate for 2006 was 69 percent and its actual was 74 percent, meaning it " overperformed." St. Thomas had similar " overperformance" scores the last four years.
  • Faculty resources (20 percent): Several factors from FY07 are used for this indicator, including class size, faculty salary, the proportion of professors with the highest degree in their fields, student-faculty ratio, and the percentage of faculty who are full time. The magazine didn’t provide statistics for all of the factors, so it is not possible at this time to give an actual comparison for this indicator.
  • Student selectivity (15 percent): Test-score averages for entering students remained about the same. St. Thomas enrolled fewer freshmen who finished in the top 10 percent of their high school class (19 percent in 2006 vs. 23 percent in 2005). UST’s acceptance rate was lower than the previous year.
  • Financial resources (10 percent): This indicator measured the average spending per student on instruction, research, student services and related educational expenditures in FY05 and FY06. Comparative data were not provided.
  • Alumni giving (5 percent): St. Thomas’ giving rate – the average percentage of alumni who gave to the university during FY05 and FY06 – remained at 16 percent. It was 14 percent two years ago and 13 percent three years ago.

There are 262 American universities, 164 public and 98 private, in the National Universities category. These schools offer a wide range of undergraduate majors as well as master’s and doctoral degrees.

Princeton again ranked No. 1 in the National Universities category, followed by Harvard and Yale. The only other Minnesota schools (in addition to St. Thomas) in this category were the University of Minnesota, which tied for No. 71, and St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, new to the National Universities category this year and ranked in the third tier.

Numerically ranked Catholic universities in this category were Notre Dame (tied for 19th), Georgetown (t-23), Boston College (t-35), Fordham (t-67), St. Louis and Marquette (t-82), San Diego (t-107), Loyola of Chicago and Dayton (t-112), and Catholic University of America (t-122).

Other third-tier Catholic universities (in addition to St. Thomas and St. Mary’s) in the National Universities category include: DePaul in Illinois, Duquesne in Pennsylvania, Seton Hall in New Jersey, and St. John’s in New York.

U.S. News has three other institutional categories:

  • Liberal Arts Colleges: These 266 liberal arts colleges emphasize undergraduate education and award at least half their degrees in the liberal arts. Following No. 1 Williams were Minnesota’s Carleton (5), Macalester (26), St. Olaf (t-54), St. John’s (t-75), St. Benedict (t-106), and Concordia-Moorhead and U of M-Morris (both third tier). Gustavus Adolphus, tied for 79th in this category last year, was not ranked because it no longer requires SAT or ACT scores for admission.
  • Universities-Master’s: These 574 universities are ranked in four geographic regions and provide a full range of undergraduate and master’s programs but few, if any, doctoral programs. In the Midwest, Creighton is still No. 1, and Minnesota schools are Hamline (t-9), St. Catherine (14), Bethel (t-20), St. Scholastica (t-23), Augsburg (t-29), University of Minnesota-Duluth (t-50) and Winona State (t-52). Bemidji, Concordia-St. Paul, Mankato, Moorhead and St. Cloud are in the third tier and Metro State is in the fourth.
  • Baccalaureate Colleges: These 320 colleges are ranked in four regions with a focus on undergraduate education and award less than half of their degrees in the liberal arts. No. 1 in the Midwest was Taylor University in Indiana. Minnesota’s Northwestern tied for ninth and Crown, North Central and the University of Minnesota-Crookston are in the third tier. Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato was in the fourth tier.