Area colleges, universities nab spots on national ranking lists

By Mark Guydish - [email protected] | September 12th, 2017 2:42 pm - updated: 9:19 pm.

All area four-year institutions of higher education found a home somewhere in the annual U.S. News & World Report college rankings released Tuesday, though the University of Scranton may have earned local bragging rights.

College rankings border on the ubiquitous these days, but the U.S. News ratings remain among the most popular, likely because they were among the earliest in what became a rapidly growing trend of releasing such lists in the past decade.

Wading through the rankings can be daunting. The website boasts “nearly 50 different types of numerical rankings and lists to help students narrow their college search.”

The big list is “National Universities” that offer a full range of undergraduate and graduate degrees while doing extensive research. The top schools on that list are names that nearly everyone knows: Princeton first and Harvard second. Yale came in fourth behind the University of Chicago, preventing an Ivy League trifecta.

Local schools were most likely to appear on the “Regional Universities North” list. Among 196 institutions, the University of Scranton hit sixth, Misericordia University landed at 41st, Marywood University at 56th, King’s College at 62nd, Wilkes University at 78th, and Bloomsburg University at 102nd.

U.S. News deemed 50 institutions as “Best Colleges for Veterans,” with Misericordia getting highest local honors at 23rd. Marywood was 34th and Wilkes was 42nd.

The University of Scranton also grabbed the top local ranking on the “Best Value Schools” list, which included 84 institutions. “The U” came in at 18th, with Misericordia at 24th, Marywood at 31st, King’s at 35th and Wilkes at 43rd.

The University of Scranton and Wilkes University both made it onto a list of 200 schools with the best engineering programs, no doctorate. Scranton was 134th, Wilkes was 169th.

Local schools routinely boast a bit about these and other rankings. A Misericordia media release noted the school has risen 26 places since 2007. President Thomas Botzman said the university is grateful for the national recognition.

But local officials also routinely point out what they contend are shortcomings in the methodology. Misericordia renewed past criticism that the U.S. News system rewards larger schools simply for being better known:

“For smaller regional institutions like Misericordia University, name recognition plays a negative factor in the rankings. Of the overall score, 22.5 percent is from peer reviews — surveys of other college presidents, academic deans and admissions counselors. Many are located far outside the region and might not know Misericordia as well as they should.”

Statements from both Misericordia and Wilkes argued that specific data from institutions can tell a more accurate story than overall ratings.

“More important data elements, such as graduation rate (74 percent), classes under 20 (46 percent), student-faculty ratio (11 to 1) and alumni giving rate (16 percent), for example, have Misericordia matching or exceeding other highly ranked colleges and universities,” the Misericordia release said.

The Wilkes release noted this about its enrollment: 51 percent are first-generation students; 35 percent received Federal PELL Grants and 49 percent get state grants; and 15 percent are expected to get no family financial contribution to their school costs. Such statistics can impact college preparedness, the release noted.

“Wilkes is proud to educate students from all socioeconomic backgrounds because we believe that talent is everywhere, and it is our duty as educators to help students find, develop, and unleash it,” President Patrick Leahy said in the release.

By Mark Guydish

[email protected]

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish