U.S. News & World Report recently released its 2008 “America’s Best Colleges” rankings. Gustavus and 17 other institutions appeared under a new ratings category called “Unranked.” This move evidently results from confusion over how and whether Gustavus uses test scores in its admission process.
“I opened the paper and read the headlines that Gustavus had vanished,” said President Jim Peterson. “So I walked out of my house to take a look. Sure enough, our beautiful campus was still there.”
The “unranking” was greeted by indifference in the Gustavus community because of the widespread view that the U.S. News ranking system does not fully measure the excellence and uniqueness of higher education experiences. This is increasingly the perception of students themselves. Fewer than four percent of Gustavus first-year students report that they consulted U.S. News rankings as a basis for their decision to attend, according to surveys of incoming students.
“We’re excellent on our own terms,” said Gustavus Board Chair Jim Gale. Gustavus President Peterson echoed this view. “Our students are interested in our school, not our ranking,” he said. “We are nationally known for our academic excellence and for our robust environment for student growth and learning. Gustavus is a success model for student research, study abroad, and faculty-student interaction. Our annual Nobel Conference brings internationally renowned scientists to campus every year as well.”
Applications hit an all-time high of more than 3,000 for this year. The incoming class is the most diverse in the College’s history, and mirrors the demographics of the State of Minnesota. The percentage of first-year students in the top 10 percent of their high school classes is also up from last year.
These results confirm the success of many efforts, including “test optional,” the admissions innovation that appears to have brought about some confusion at U.S. News. “We’re excited about test optional,” said Vice President for Admission and Student Financial Assistance Mark Anderson, “but it’s one of several areas not yet well understood or captured in U.S. News methodology.”
Because of increasing questions regarding the validity and relevance of U.S. News rankings, more and more college presidents are expressing concern and calling for alternatives. Some within higher education are assembling new criteria and measures to support the college choice process. The best known of these is the University and College Accountability Network’s Consumer Information Project, due for launch as soon as next month.
“To us, Gustavus students are more than a test score,” said Peterson. “And to our students, we are more than a ranking. Gustavus will continue to do what it does best, which is to prepare students for fulfilling lives of leadership and service.”
Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin