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Beloit College sees drop in U.S. News rankings

Beloit College has fallen among top liberal arts schools in the nation, according to the 2018 U.S. News and World Report college rankings that were released on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017.

Beloit placed 76th overall on the U.S. News and World Report National Liberal Arts College list for 2018, a noticeable drop from the school’s ranking of 62 for 2017. Six schools share the 76th spot in the rankings: Hendrix College (Conway, Ark.), Kalamazoo College (Michigan), Lewis & Clark College (Portland, Or.), St. John’s College (Santa Fe, N.M.) and Wheaton College (Norton, Mass.) accompany Beloit for the six-way tie.

In addition to their overall scores for each college, the U.S. News and World Report also ranks schools in individual areas along the lines of finance and teaching. Beloit tied with six other schools at 13th for “Most Innovative” liberal arts colleges, and was also included in another seven-way tie at 20th for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” Beloit also appeared on non-ranked lists for “A+ Schools for B Students” and “Schools With Most International Students.”

Beloit was excluded from lists for “Best Value Schools,” “Student Debt Load at Graduation,” “Undergraduate Business Programs,” “Undergraduate Engineering Programs” and “Ethnic and Economic Diversity.” The college also didn’t make “Academic Programs to Look For,” which highlights schools strong in any of the following programs: first-year experience, internship opportunities, learning communities, capstone, service learning, study abroad, undergraduate research, creative projects and writing in the disciplines.

The U.S. News and World Report also uses various “sub-factors” in formulating its rankings. These include statistics such as average graduation rate, acceptance rate and freshman retention rate, among others. According to this year’s report, Beloit has not improved in many of these categories in comparison to their statistics from 2016, instead either worsening or staying the same in most sub-factors. Most notably, Beloit’s average graduation rate has fallen from 80% in 2016 to 73% for 2018. Beloit also has fewer class sizes between 1 and 19 students now (69%) than in 2016 (72%). Other slight decreases that Beloit has seen include average freshman retention rate (89% in 2016 to 88% for 2018) and average alumni giving rate (23% to 21%). Beloit’s acceptance rate has also risen from 69% to 70% over that span. It is important to note that some of these statistics are trailing across several years; for example, the retention rate for 2016 is a four-year trailing average referring to the average proportion of first-year students who enrolled between fall 2012 and fall 2015 and then returned the following fall.

19 of Beloit’s “peer schools”– meaning colleges with which Beloit often competes for students due to similarities in academics, athletics, size and so on– also made the list. Of those schools, Kenyon College (Gambier, Ohio) boasted the best ranking at 26th. Other peers that made the list include Centre College (Danville, Ky.) and Gettysburg College (Pennsylvania), which tied for 46th; Dickinson College (Carlisle, Pa.) and Rhodes College (Memphis, Tenn.), tied at 51; DePauw University (Greencastle, Ind.), 53; Lawrence University (Appleton, Wis.) and St. Lawrence University (Canton, N.Y.), tied at 58; College of Wooster (Ohio) and Wheaton College (Illinois), tied at 63; Hobart & William Smith College (Geneva, N.Y.), 65; Illinois Wesleyan University (Bloomington, Ill.), Knox College (Galesburg, Ill.), Muhlenberg College (Allentown, Pa.) and Wofford College (Spartanburg, S.C.), tied at 71; Kalamazoo, tied with Beloit at 76; Allegheny College (Meadville, Pa.), 82; and Austin College (Sherman, Texas) and Ursinus College (Collegeville, Pa.), which tied for 93rd. This places Beloit, along with Kalamazoo, at the 21st percentile among its peers.

The usual suspects remained at the top of the U.S. News and World Report’s rankings of liberal arts colleges for 2018. Williams College (Williamstown, Mass.) garnered its second consecutive first-place finish while Amherst College (Massachusetts) also matched its 2017 ranking at second. Bowdoin College (Brunswick, Maine), Swarthmore College (Pennsylvania) and Wellesley College (Massachusetts) tied for third in the 2018 rankings; Wellesley also came in third in 2017 while Bowdoin and Swarthmore each improved slightly.

As for the U.S. News and World Report’s National University Rankings, plenty of familiar names clustered near the top. Princeton University and Harvard University placed first and second, respectively. The University of Chicago and Yale University tied for third while Columbia University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford University knotted for fifth.

Since 2009, Beloit has consistently ranked in the late 50s to early 60s on the U.S. News and World Report’s liberal arts college list, with their best ranking in that span being 55 in 2011.

Despite their reputation as one of the top college ranking systems, the U.S. News and World Report has often received criticism for its ranking methodology. Many of its sub-factors can be difficult to quantify in spite of its heavy use of statistics. The U.S. News and World Report itself admits on its website that “the host of intangibles that make up the college experience can’t be measured by a series of data points.”  

The U.S. News and World Report’s formula utilizes “exclusively statistical quantitative and qualitative measures that education experts have proposed as reliable indicators of academic quality” and is based on “U.S. News’ researched view of what matters in education.”

To calculate its rankings, the U.S. News and World Report gathers data from each college on several “indicators of academic excellence.” Most colleges report their data directly to the U.S. News and World Report during its collection window throughout the spring and summer, and then the website uses the data for each “indicator” to determine a college’s rank. The indicators of academic excellence, as well as their influence on each college’s rank, are as follows: graduation and retention rates (weighted 22.5%), undergraduate academic reputation (22.5%), faculty resources (20%), student selectivity (12.5%), financial resources (10%), graduation rate performance (7.5%) and alumni giving rate (5%).

Source: U.S. News and World Report

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