A Great Way to Start the Year!

Sep 8th, 2009 @ 5:48 am | Author: Dr. Steve Shirley, VCSU President
As you may know, just before the start of this academic year VCSU was informed it made the USNews "America's Best Colleges" list for 2010. This marks the twelfth consecutive year VCSU has been ranked among the top institutions in our category. Even better, this year VCSU moved up two notches in these rankings, and is the second-highest ranked public baccalaureate college in the Midwest.

That is very positive news and it sounds wonderful, but what does it mean? First, it is a regional ranking. The Midwest region is comprised of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio. Furthermore, VCSU is in the "Baccalaureate Colleges" category. This category is comprised of institutions that focus on undergraduate education and grant fewer than half of their degrees in liberal arts disciplines. There are a total of 99 colleges that were ranked in our category, and 82 are private while 17 are public. Therefore, among institutions with a similar profile and mission to VCSU in the 12-state Midwest region, VCSU ranked second among 17 public colleges and universities.

This ranking is a reflection, not just of the fine efforts of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni, but also of the community at large. All VCSU stakeholders, as well as the entire community, can be proud of this recognition. There are a number of important indicators that go into the overall ranking. These include: freshmen retention rate, graduation rate, average class sizes, student/faculty ratio, percentage of faculty who are full-time, average ACT/SAT scores, freshmen in the top 25% of their class, acceptance rate, average alumni giving rate, and peer assessment.

All of these indicators are important and are part of the many factors that determine the academic quality and integrity within the University. As we make strides to grow Valley City State University, we are squarely focused not only on the quantity of students enrolled, but also on the quality of our curriculum and the programs we offer.

Beyond simply being #2 (and moving up two slots from #4 last year), it is also important to note that VCSU has been named to this list for twelve straight years. That is certainly a model of consistency and speaks to the strong foundation upon which VCSU's academics stand.

There is no doubt that rankings in any field – from Higher Education to "Best Car Buys" to "Favorite Local Restaurant" – can be a source of discussion, debate, and controversy. It is not a perfect science, and there is unquestionably a sense of subjectivity within the process. However, in looking at such indicators as retention and graduation rates, class size, and alumni giving, there is no question that important benchmarks are considered for the U.S. News rankings.

As U.S. News states, "rankings provide an excellent starting point because they offer the opportunity to judge the relative quality of institutions based on widely accepted indicators of excellence." It is not a perfect system, but it can be one of several very important factors individuals use in making college selection decisions.

VCSU is proud to be ranked #2 out of 17 similar institutions in the Midwest, and we will incorporate this good news into future campus promotional and marketing materials. Prospective students and their families consider this information when making important decisions for college, and we will certainly share the news with them. This is a great way to begin the 2009-10 academic year, and I am excited about the year ahead!