U.S. News & World Report has recently released its 2012 edition of Best Colleges. For the last 23 years, John Carroll University has consecutively ranked in the top 10 of “Regional Universities” in the Midwest that offer Master’s programs. JCU placed seventh overall in its’ category of “Regional Midwest Universities” this year. This main category has several subcategories in which JCU has also been placed. JCU was rated fourth in “Great Schools, Great Prices” and first for its “Strong Commitment to Undergraduate Teaching.” JCU has even improved since last year’s edition of Best Colleges.
In 2011, JCU was ranked 15th in “Great Schools, Great Prices” and fourth in schools with “Strong Commitment to Undergraduate Teaching.” John Carroll’s accounting program is considered to be among the top 32 in the U.S. and the unique service learning program offered at JCU is on the list of “Programs to Look For.”
The 2012 edition covers the school information from the 2010-2011 school year. U.S. News & World Report uses two main sources of information to compile their ratings for Best Colleges. Their first source of information is a peer assessment form. Each university in the Midwest region category is sent a form to evaluate all the other schools in the category.
At JCU, the form is filled out by Brian Williams, the vice president for enrollment, John Day, the vice president for academic affairs, and President the Rev. Robert Niehoff, S.J.
The form allows each university to evaluate each other on how the schools are performing academically. Marilyn Valencia, the coordinator of institutional effectiveness, is in charge of completing the second set of information, which is called the Common Data Set. This source includes statistical information such as class size, student/faculty ratio, graduation rate, and SAT and ACT scores of students.
In evaluating the information obtained, U.S. News categorizes it into six different areas. The first category, undergraduate academic reputation, is taken solely from the peer assessment form. This allows the universities to have a say in how they feel other schools are handling similar issues that all the schools in the region are facing. The other five categories consist of information taken from the Common Data Set and are as follows: student selectivity for fall 2010 entering class; faculty resources for 2010-2011 academic year; graduation and retention rates; financial resources that create the ratio of total assets of the university compared to the number of students at the school; and alumni giving. An example of how the Common Data Set is used is in the student selectivity section, the high school rank of each freshman and their ACT or SAT scores. Each of these categories is a percentage of the total score that is then given to the institution.
Williams is one of the three JCU faculty members that fills out the peer assessment form sent out by U.S. News.
“I think, primarily the awareness and acknowledgment of other institutions that are seeing the good work we’re doing,” he said. “We have done more advertising and peer assessment has improved greatly over the years.”
The “Strong Commitment to Undergraduate Teaching” subcategory is determined purely from the peer assessment form, so as JCU has been improving in that area, that would explain the University’s first place ranking this year. The University Marketing and Communications department has been diligently working on advertising and positioning the University in a positive way to other universities, which has also helped improve peer assessment.
Other areas in which JCU stands out among the ratings come from the Common Data Set. The quality of incoming freshmen has improved, as have the freshman-sophomore and graduation retention rates. These are all areas included in the Common Data Set. In the faculty resources category of the U.S. News evaluation criteria, the percentage of class sizes over 50 students counts negatively towards the institution’s overall score. There is not a single class at JCU that has over 50 students, as JCU is dedicated to maintaining smaller class sizes. This greatly helps the University’s rating continue to stay high.
JCU faculty and staff are always trying to improve the institution and create higher standards. It is a plus that U.S. News & World Report considers the same areas important that JCU does, which is a reason the school is doing well in the rankings.
“This is a wonderful recognition of the dedication and effective teaching of our faculty and the important contribution of staff and administrators who support the student experience here at John Carroll,” Day said.
The Rev. Robert Niehoff echoed these feelings. “I am delighted that the commitment of the John Carroll community has earned national recognition once again. In a way, the rankings confirm what we already know—that we offer an outstanding education. Our students leave John Carroll well prepared to engage the world. I often say that the rankings are nice, but it’s the intellect and character of our students and graduates that I truly celebrate.”