Three publications tout CSB, SJU in rankings

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September 11, 2018

The best liberal arts college in the nation is …

Good question, one without any true answer.

But throughout August, September and October, various organizations do their best to answer that question to the public.

Which brings us to the latest college rankings provided by Washington Monthly, U.S. News and World Report and the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education.

Washington Monthly ranked the College of Saint Benedict 30th and Saint John’s University 52nd among 228 national liberal arts colleges.

They were the second (CSB) and fourth (SJU) ranked liberal arts colleges in Minnesota, behind Carleton (No. 29) and Macalester (No. 47).

Washington Monthly rated schools on their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: social mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and Ph.D.’s) and service (encouraging students to give something back to their country).

The publication also offered a “Best Bang for the Bucks - Midwest” category, with CSB ranking No. 15 and SJU ranking No. 22. They are the top two liberal arts schools in Minnesota in this category, which is a listing of 385 schools in the Midwest that help non-wealthy students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices.

In the U.S. News and World Report rankings, which were released Sept. 10, CSB is ranked No. 86 and SJU 95th among national liberal arts colleges.

Criteria for the rankings include graduation and retention rates; undergraduate academic reputation among counselors and peers; faculty resources; student selectivity; financial resources; graduation rate performance; and alumnae/i giving.

Additionally, both CSB and SJU were included on the magazine’s “A+ Schools for B Students.”

Finally, CSB was ranked No. 196 and SJU No. 202 in the 2019 Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings. Nearly 1,000 private and public schools were ranked, with schools being listed individually by position Nos. 1-500, followed by three groupings (schools ranked Nos. 501-600, 601-800 and over 800).

The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings are based on 15 key indicators that assess colleges in four areas: outcomes, resources, engagement and environment. Outcomes accounts for 40 percent of the weighting and measures things like the salary graduates earn and the debt burden they take on. Resources, with a 30 percent weighting, is mainly a proxy for the spending schools put into instruction and student services. Engagement, drawn mostly from a student survey and with a 20 percent weight, examines views on things like teaching and interactions with faculty and other students. Environment, at 10 percent, assesses the diversity of the university community.

These rankings come with a caveat emptor: buyer beware, according to Jon McGee, vice president for planning and Strategy at CSB and SJU and the author of “Dear Parents: A Field Guide for College Preparation.”

“Because a one-size-fits-all-criterion fits neither all institutions nor all students, the utility of rankings decreases as you work more deeply into your college search,” McGee wrote. “They do not and cannot describe the experiences your son or daughter will have or need.”