Baptist higher ed prominent in U.S. News annual rankings

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--More than 40 colleges and universities affiliated with the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities have been listed among the nation’s best in the annual survey conducted by U.S. News and World Report magazine.

IABCU member institutions continue to have a “prominent role within the American higher education community, demonstrating that it is possible to be intentionally Christian and academically excellent,” said Bob R. Agee, executive director of the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities, formerly the Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools.

Of the 43 IABCU member institutions in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, 26 were listed in the top tier, or top 100, of institutions analyzed and compared in four categories.

Ten IABCU schools were listed in the third tier, while seven were in the fourth tier. Two were ranked in the top five in their respective category for the highest graduation rates, with Oklahoma Baptist University and Samford University singled out for the high percentage of students who started their education at those institutions and completed degrees within six years.

U.S. News & World Report also identified “Great Schools at a Great Price,” reflecting high academic reputation and reasonable price. Eight IABCU member schools were listed in their respective categories: Mercer University, Mississippi College, Carson-Newman College, Samford University, Wayland Baptist University, Ouachita Baptist University, East Texas Baptist University and Howard Payne University.

In rankings of institutions where students graduated with the most debt and the least debt, four IABCU schools listed with the least debt were Gardner-Webb University, Mercer University, Southwest Baptist University and Mid-Continent University. No IABCU schools were listed among schools from which students graduated with the most debt.

The national news magazine studied more than 1,400 institutions across the United States, gathering data from the schools themselves and soliciting opinions from peer institutions regarding their perception of quality. Using a weighting system based on what the editors believe to be indicators of excellence, they assigned a ranking in four categories: Best National Universities; Best Liberal Arts Colleges; Best Universities—Master’s (by region); and Best Comprehensive Colleges—Bachelor’s (by region). The journal’s ranking is determined by analyzing information gathered on peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving. The schools are then ranked against their peer institutions and assigned a score based on the accumulated data.

The 26 IABCU member schools ranked in the top tier were listed in Best National Universities, Best Universities—Master’s and in Best Comprehensive Colleges—Bachelor’s. Baylor University was listed in the top tier of Best National Universities category, ranking 81st among the 248 institutions that fit the profile. These schools are evaluated based on the fact that they offer a “wide range of undergraduate majors as well as master’s and doctoral programs.” The group included 162 public institutions and 86 private institutions.

IABCU member schools emerged in significant leadership positions within the Best Universities—Master’s category. Samford University (fourth ), Mercer University (ninth), Belmont University (10th), Union University (25th), Mississippi College (29th), Carson-Newman (33rd), Campbell University (44th), Gardner-Webb University (61st) and University of the Cumberlands (64th) were ranked in the top tier in the South. Hardin-Simmons University (38th), Houston Baptist University (49th), California Baptist University (51st), University of Mary Hardin Baylor (57th) and Dallas Baptist University (61st) were ranked in the top tier of Best Universites—Master’s in the West. Samford University was also listed among the top five in graduation rate within the category of schools. The Best Universities—Master’s category looked at 557 schools classified in this group. These schools provide a full range of undergraduate and master’s level programs but offer few, if any, doctoral programs.

Of the institutions ranked in the category Best Comprehensive Colleges—Bachelor’s, 12 IABCU member schools made the top tier. In the West region, Oklahoma Baptist University (fifth), East Texas Baptist University (11th) and Howard Payne (16th) were ranked. In the South region, Ouachita Baptist University (fifth), Shorter College (21st), Louisiana College (30th), Mars Hill College (38th), Blue Mountain College (41st), Anderson College (44th), Bluefield College and North Greenville University (tied for 49th) were listed in the top tier. In the Midwest region, Judson College in Illinois (44th) was ranked in the top tier. Oklahoma Baptist University also was ranked in the listing of schools in this category with the highest graduation rate among the Best Comprehensive Colleges—Bachelor’s. The category includes 320 institutions that were evaluated by U.S. News and includes schools that offer a wide range of undergraduate degrees in liberal arts and professional disciplines.

The magazine also ranked schools with outstanding undergraduate programs in business and engineering. The undergraduate engineering programs at Baylor University (20th) and Mercer University (36th) were noted among the best programs.

“The number of IABCU member schools ranked in the top tier was the highest in the history of the rankings by U.S. News & World Report,” Agee said. “Several schools moved from third tier to top tier categories, indicating strong effort on the part of administration and faculty to strengthen their reputation for quality education.”

Schools that ranked in the third tier in their respective categories included 10 IABCU member schools.

Among Best Liberal Arts Colleges, Georgetown College was listed in the third tier; among the Best Universities—Master’s, Campbellsville University, Charleston Southern University, Palm Beach Atlantic University, University of Mobile and the University of the Cumberlands were listed in the South. Wayland Baptist University was listed among schools in the West in the third tier, while Southwest Baptist University was ranked in this category in the Midwest region.

Within the category of Best Comprehensive Colleges—Bachelor’s, IABCU member schools Virginia Intermont College and Williams Baptist College were ranked in the third tier.

Seven IABCU member schools were ranked in the fourth tier of their respective categories: Judson College (Alabama), among the Best Liberal Arts Colleges; William Carey University, among the Best Universities—Master’s; Brewton-Parker College, Chowan University, Mid-Continent University, Hannibal-LaGrange College and Missouri Baptist University among Best Comprehensive Colleges—Bachelor’s.

Thirteen member schools reported graduation rates of 50 percent or higher, with Baylor (72 percent) and Samford (70 percent) leading the way of students who graduate within six years of entering a school. In the reported freshman retention rates, 18 IABCU member schools reported retention rates above 70 percent.

“Schools listed in the U.S. News and World Report annual ranking of colleges and universities benefit from the report,” Agee said. “Today’s students study the rankings and often are influenced in their choice of school by whether an institution is listed in the magazine’s annual review. The magazine reports that its annual ‘America’s Best Colleges’ issue is its best-selling issue.”

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