National rankings and UVM

This time of year, we see the annual US News rankings that provides an annual assessment of a dozen or so factors used to rank colleges and universities. I can remember when they were first developed. It wasn’t evident at that time that this annual survey would become part of the higher education landscape to the degree it has. UVM continues to have a strong showing, being ranked in the top 40 public universities in the country (out of 170 public universities nationally). Of note, UVM ranks in the top 25% of all national institutions for expenditures per student (more than $42,000 annually) and for our graduation performance (both our four and six year graduation rates). These factors are particularly important because they show a commitment to students while at UVM and a return on the investment in terms of graduation on time.

This week marked the release of two other rankings that are important to share. The College Scorecard is a national effort to simplify rankings on three factors: average annual cost, graduation rate and salary after attending. These data points are collected from sources that include actual IRS information on the earnings. While not perfect, it is a quick way to make some comparisons. UVM is above the national average in graduation rate and earnings after attending and below the national average in cost to attend (in fact, we are the only institution in Vermont that can make that claim).

In addition to College Scorecard, The New York Times released their College Access Index, measuring a college’s efforts to expand access for economic diversity. Only schools with a five-year graduation rate of 75 percent or higher are included on the list. UVM ranked 59th among all institutions, and 13th for schools with smaller endowments. UVM has a tuition pledge to our Vermont Pell recipients, guaranteeing all tuition costs covered by grant. As a result, UVM enrolls approximately 31% of Vermonters as Pell eligible last year.

A word of advice about rankings…it is critical to use them globally and not comparing literally. In other words, in US News rankings, is #89 and #59 dramatically different in educational quality? There is no evidence that is true and does students a great disservice to believe so. It is helpful to take the time to look into what goes into creating each of the rankings.

The University of Vermont offers students an exceptional undergraduate experience in the classroom, delivered by outstanding faculty that are both researchers and teachers. Experiential learning compliments a students classroom work to create the complete experience for our students.

I hope you will take a look at UVM beyond the rankings…get to know the stories of our students, the accomplishments of our faculty, and the impact our alumni are making. It’s the school of choice for more than 10,000 undergraduate students this year!

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