Washburn receives accolades

Ben Fitch

Washburn University’s ranking on the list of top 10 public colleges in the Midwest may be a reflection of a reputation not easily seen at first glance.

The university has ranked within the top 10 for a decade in U.S. News and World Report’s annual ranking of “America’s Best Colleges.” The ratings are not without controversy, though, said David Monical, Washburn’s executive director of government and university relations, because the criterion for the ranking is such that small schools can excel.

This does not mean the ranking is meaningless, however. In fact, Washburn is classified with and ranked amongst master’s universities. Universities that focus on undergraduate education, offer some master’s degree programs, but few, if any, doctoral programs. For this reason, Washburn is not ranked among its biggest competitors, the University of Kansas and Kansas State University, which are rated on a national scale.

Washburn is ranked together with private universities, however, which make up the majority of the list. Of the 146 schools, 94 private and 52 public, Washburn is ranked 36.

“The rankings are skewed to rank private schools higher than public schools,” Monical said.

When the private schools are taken off the list, Washburn comes in seventh, tied with Grand Valley State University and the University of Minnesota.

Another important factor to consider, said Monical, is that Washburn is the only open-admissions university ranked in the top ten. The open-admissions factor skews almost all of the criteria including student retention, weighted as 20 percent of the rating.

The other criteria are, respectively, peer assessment, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation rate performance and the alumni giving rate. The last is strong with Washburn.

“[The ranking] reinforces what students think,” Monical said, “that Washburn is a high quality institution.”

Enrollment management plans to market the accolade to prospective students by developing a general interest post card that showcases Washburn’s ranking. A letter to the parents of prospective students is being drafted as well and will mention the University’s reputation.

“I’m not certain this will have a direct impact on enrollment, but it affirms that we are doing something right,” said Richard Liedtke, executive director of enrollment management.

U.S. News and World Report states that the ranking is compiled to help individuals with their quest to find a good school.

“How can you best use our rankings? Mining the data for the information you need can definitely inform your thinking. The hard work is up to you.”