WILKES-BARRE — There is a good chance Wilkes University will jump from being a “regional university” to being a “national” one, president Patrick Leahy said, and he would welcome the change.
“We think it will much more adequately reflect the diversity of programs we have here at Wilkes,” Leahy said.
The “national university” status is bestowed annually by U.S. News and World Report in the magazine’s “Best Colleges” rankings. Specifically, a university is deemed national if it offers “a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and doctoral programs, and emphasizes faculty research,” according to the U .S. News website.
The magazine also ranks schools in a “national liberal arts colleges” category of schools that focus almost exclusively on undergraduate programs and “regional universities” that “offer a broad scope of undergraduate degrees and some master’s degree programs but few, if any, doctoral programs.”
All Luzerne and Lackawanna County institutions, including Wilkes, fell into the regional category this year.
Leahy believes U.S. News uses what is known as the “Carnegie Classification” of schools to determine in which category schools land.
In 1970, the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education began developing the classifications system to make research and comparison of colleges and universities more accurate. The system was introduced in 1973 and updated seven times since, most recently as last year.
Leahy said Wilkes is currently classified as a “large masters university.” But he expects classifications to be revised in 2018 and predicted that, due to the growing diversity of programs offered and expanding doctoral offerings, “we could jump into the doctoral research category.”
“If that happens, we could move into the national universities category” in the U.S. News ranking, Leahy said.
That would put Wilkes in lofty company: Princeton has topped that category for six years, including in the 2017 rankings released Tuesday. The category also includes Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT, Notre Dame and Duke, to name a few.
Leahy said such a change might finally get people to think of Wilkes as something more than a small, liberal arts college.
“We confer twice as many graduate degrees as undergraduate degrees,” he said, admitting to some frustration in what he believes is a clear misperception.
“People think we are an undergraduate liberal arts college. We haven’t been an undergraduate liberal arts college probably for about 50 years,” he added. “We are a comprehensive university with as many graduate students as undergraduates. In fact, we have more graduates than undergrads.”
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish