By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — The annual college rankings by U.S. News and World Report were released this week, and Goshen College has once again been included in the organization’s list of best colleges in the United States.
Officially announced Wednesday, the 2013 rankings list GC at 140th in the National Liberal Arts category, which includes those colleges and universities that award at least half of their degrees in the liberal arts fields of study. That ranking is nearly identical to the college’s 2012 ranking of 139th out of 236 nationally ranked liberal arts colleges.
“If you look at the actual data, there are about five of us that have tied for 140th,” said James Townsend, vice president for enrollment management and marketing at GC. “When you look at the schools that are ranked with us or a little higher up than us, it’s great company to be in. I’m proud to stand alongside many of these schools.”
According to Townsend, the annual college rankings are determined by a large combination of factors including everything from alumni giving rates to student graduation rates and average SAT/ACT scores.
“Basically what these rankings do is give parents and students a number of metrics to look at when considering a potential college or university,” Townsend said. “For example, if you’re looking for things like diversity, or retention rates, or the types of graduates produced, it provides some insights to parents and students as to how to narrow down their choices.”
While the rankings are admittedly important when it comes to a college or university’s ability to attract new students, Townsend was quick to note that the rankings are just one of a number of factors that go into a student’s final decision to attend one institution over another.
“It’s interesting, because you’re starting to see where some schools are saying ‘Hey, we’re in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges list.’ Well, every college is in there, it just depends on where you’re ranked,” Townsend said. “So I encourage parents and students to use it as one metric, but don’t just use one factor as the only indicator for which college to attend.”
As one example, Townsend noted several incidents in the recent past where colleges were found to be manipulating their data just so they could achieve a higher ranking.
“That has been the unfortunate part of it — the lengths that schools will go to to increase their rankings,” Townsend said. “But really, when the students come to the campus and meet the instructors and maybe sit in on a class or two, that’s where they really see what life on that particular campus is like. So while I encourage students to have a top 10 list, I always encourage them to visit the campuses before making their final choice.”
Overall, Townsend said he is happy with the college’s 140th ranking, saying he feels it’s an accurate reflection of the quality education the college is providing to its students.
“We already had one of the highest retention rates among similar colleges, which shows that what students are finding when they come here is that we’re meeting or exceeding expectations, and they’re choosing to stay here to finish out their degrees,” Townsend said. “When people have 4,000 choices of colleges out there, anything that can let them explore who you are, anything that can get us connected to those families and have them come visit our website, it’s definitely a positive.”
Averaging an annual enrollment of approximately 1,000 students, GC’s current enrollment according to the U.S. News and World Report appears to be holding pretty steady with a total enrollment listing of 945 students, approximately 893 of which are undergraduate students.
“Enrollment right now is about the same as it has been in previous years,” Townsend said. “One of my goals when I first came to the campus on June 1 was to discover more opportunities to let people know about GC. I’ve worked at two other institutions and have 25 years of experience in Christian education. What I’ve learned about GC is just how much I like what’s happening here, and I know there are many more out there who will be as equally impressed if they’re given the opportunity to discover us.
“We don’t want to brag too much, but we want to get the info out there, so we’ll be doing more to get the word out to these students about the opportunities available here. So I think we will definitely see an increase in enrollment next year.”