William Jewell ranks high in annual U.S. News rankings of colleges

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Photo courtesy of Hannah Koehler

U.S. News recently published their annual rankings of best colleges in the United States. William Jewell College was ranked in three separate categories: ninth Best in the Midwest Regional Colleges, 13th in Best Value Schools and tied for 39th Best in Top Performers on Social Mobility in the Midwest. The magazine also compiled a bevy of other information about the school.

Among the noteworthy information released by U.S News is that Jewell has a student-faculty ratio of 10-1, and 76.4 percent of classes have less than 20 students. 

To rank U.S. colleges, U.S. News first divided all the colleges into one of four categories: National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities and Regional Colleges. Jewell fit the criteria of the Regional College category by being an undergraduate college in which less than 50 percent of degrees are in liberal arts disciplines.  

These categories are then split into one of four additional categories based on geographic regions. The four categories are North, South, Midwest, and West. Given its location, Jewell fell into the Midwest region. 

After categorizing the colleges on these two standards, U.S. News applies a methodology to reach their rankings based on six main indicator categories: Outcomes, Expert Opinion, Faculty Resources, Student Excellence, Financial Resources, and Alumni Giving. However, within the methodology these categories do not count equally. To demonstrate how the magazine’s methodology works, one need only look at the category that is the largest percentage block – Outcomes. 

Outcomes contributes to more than a third of the total score colleges receive at a total of 35 percent. U.S. News breaks this category down into three distinct divisions. The metrics in this category are graduation and student retention rates, graduation rate performance and social mobility. The three metrics are not weighted equally. 

Graduation and student retention rates are worth a sweeping majority at 22 percent. It further breaks down into two subcategories, the average of the last four years of students graduating in six years or less and the past four year average of students returning for a subsequent semester after the first year. 

Though U.S. News does not reveal all of its data points freely, it does note that the average first-year retention rate for Jewell stands at 78 percent. 

Graduation rate performance is worth 8 percent of the ranking is determined based on the predicted graduation rate U.S. News made in 2012 for the institutions surveyed. 

Social Mobility constitutes 5 percent of the total ranking and is delineated into its own category. The criteria for this subcategory was how adept the institution was at graduating students who received federal Pell Grants. In this category Jewell ranked 39th best. 

U.S. News defends having Outcomes contribute 35 percent. 

“It receives the highest weight in our rankings because degree completion is necessary to receive the full benefits of undergraduate study from employers and graduate schools,” the magazine explained.

The other categories are subdivided similarly, with Faculty Resources and Expert Opinion constituting 20 percent apiece to the total ranking, 10 percent to Student Excellent and Financial Resources and 5 percent for Alumni Giving. 

These metrics are then placed on a 100 point scale and each institution is then graded accordingly. U.S. News does not freely share the breakdowns for Jewell in each respective category, but Jewell’s overall score was 81

This overall score factored into the methodology for determining Best Value scores. The criteria for these categories fell into three categories: ratio of quality to price, percentage of all undergraduates who received need-based grants and the average discount off the sticker price of the college. 

In these categories, ratio of quality to price is worth the majority in ranking at 60 percent, percentage of all undergraduates who received need-based grants is worth 25 percent and average discount is worth 15 percent.  

“A school’s overall score in the 2020 Best Colleges rankings was divided by the net cost for the 2018-2019 academic year for a student receiving the average need-based financial aid award in scholarships or grants,” U.S. News explained about the ratio of quality to price.

Jewell ranked 13th in Best Values, ranking for Regional Colleges in the Midwest between Wisconsin Lutheran College and Taylor University. 

U.S. News has been publishing college rankings since the 1980s, and the influence of their college rankings is considerable. In 2014, the release of the rankings brought 2.6 million unique viewers to the webpage in just a single day. 

However, some commentators have criticized the methodology that U.S. News uses. Several commentators have noted that the information the magazine’s rankings rely on is easily falsifiable. Indeed, there has been repeated evidence of colleges lying to improve their scores over the years. 

Jewell is nonetheless proud of its place in the rankings. The high placement is consistent with a series of recent high rankings for Jewell, including in The Princeton Review of the Best 385 Colleges in the United States and Forbes Top 15% of Colleges in the United States. 

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