MU's rank improves in 2 best college lists

MU was rated the best public university in the state.
Spencer Pearson / Graphic Designer

In two college ranking lists released this month, MU has shown improvement from last year’s rankings.

In its third annual America’s Best Colleges list, Forbes Magazine ranked MU 364th out of 610 schools listed. The ranking is a small improvement over the 2009 report, which placed MU at 374th. MU’s Forbes ranking is the highest of any public university in the state, with the next highest being Truman State University at 393rd.

Forbes partnered with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity to produce the list.

“As long as Forbes has been doing it, we’ve been calculating the rankings,” said CCAP administrative director Matthew Denhart.

Denhart said college rankings should not be the primary factor in a student’s choice of college.

"I think our approach has always been that they (rankings) shouldn’t be the number one factor, but they are important,” he said. “One of the major problems with higher education as a whole is that there isn't a lot of information about outputs available (to students).”

The report, released Aug. 11, ranks colleges based on student satisfaction, postgraduate success, student debt, four-year graduation rate and competitive awards, according to the Forbes website.

“We tweaked the methodology in a couple of ways, including the inclusion of data on student default rates on educational loans, data on alumni who are either CEOs or on the boards of directors of America's leading companies, and freshman-to-sophomore retention rates,” Forbes Lifestyle Editor David Ewalt said.

Ewalt said other rankings look at inputs to measure a college based on the SAT scores of incoming freshmen, their place in their high school class and what percentage of applicants are admitted.

“We think what matters is outputs,” he said. “We want to see that students who graduate from a college go on to do great things -- they hold important jobs, they win awards, they make lots of money and they’re not forced to carry huge debt loads from paying tuition.”

MU spokesman Christian Basi said the university is not very concerned with the rankings.

“We don’t take the rankings very seriously, because there’s a great deal of change year to year,” he said. “Our main goal is to provide the best educational experience for the students who come to MU, and to make sure that we have the resources in place to prepare them in the best possible manner for their chosen career.”

A new feature of this year’s list is the inclusion of student reviews on the website RateMyProfessors.com, which accounted for 17.5 percent of the Forbes ranking.

The website is a free service that allows students to rate their professors based on a five-point rating system for easiness, helpfulness and clarity through anonymous reviews posted by students.

A report similar to Forbes’, the U.S. News & World Report’s annual Best Colleges list, was released Aug. 19 with data on 1,400 schools. The 2011 edition placed MU as 94th on a list of 262 national universities.

The U.S. News & World Report used seven areas to measure academic quality: peer assessment, student retention and graduation rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, alumni giving and graduation rate performance.

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