The University of Richmond ranked 84th out of 610 schools of Forbes magazine's recently released list of America's Best Colleges. Ivy League schools such as Princeton University, Yale University and Harvard University took spots in the top ten, with Williams College ranked No. 1.
For the Office of Undergraduate Admission at Richmond, ranking on lists such as U.S. News & World Report and the Princeton Review, along with Forbes, are not completely unappreciated, but to gain one of these top spots is not what Richmond is working toward.
"Rankings are not something an institution, particularly Richmond, chases, but it's nice to know that when you think about the Richmond Promise, and all of the things we hold true and strong, that we're being recognized for our focus on ... undergraduate teaching," Richmond's director of admission, Michael Kabbaz, said.
Gil Villanueva, Richmond's dean of admission, said that it was "good for institutions to be listed among the very best." However, he also said that these sorts of rankings were not the most important thing to consult during the college search process.
"Sadly, I think the rankings have really heightened the kind of angst and the kind of pressure and stress that prospective students and families feel about the college search process," Villanueva said, "so there are some good and bad things about it."
According to the Forbes Web site, many factors go into determining a school's rank on the list. The category that receives the most weight is postgraduate success. This includes the number of alumni listed in the Who's Who of America, the alumni in the Forbes/CCAP Corporate Officers List and alumni salaries as reported by Payscale.com, which is an online salary survey offering salary reports. Student satisfaction is weighted slightly less in the equation, measured by factors of freshman-to-sophomore retention rates and student evaluations from both RateMyProfessor.com and MyPlan.com. From the latter, Forbes uses a student questionnaire on topics such as happiness levels at school.
About the emphasis on outcomes such as graduates' success over student satisfaction while at school, Kabbaz said that it would be hard for a survey such as Forbes to accurately rank schools such as Richmond against larger institutions, just because of the size of Richmond's student population.
"So it's tough to compare," he said, "what are graduates doing based on sheer numbers when you look at the size of the institutions. So there are just some ways in which ... you have to take [the surveys] with a grain of salt."
Villanueva said that these measures of student output were just a piece of what went into the rankings, and do have their place among such things as student satisfaction. This is because it represents a return on investment, paying off for families later in life because of positive experiences at the school, he said.
"I'd like to think that [the rankings] give them a pretty good idea," Villanueva said, "because we have a wonderful retention rate, we have a high graduation rate ... our post-graduate activity is so strong, that students will have a very good experience here at this institution, and then later on in life it will propel them to move on to bigger and better places."
However, Villanueva said families should not forget about a student's four years at college when looking at rankings to form decisions, because that time in a student's life is also important.
While the Princeton Review's college rankings and U.S. News & World Report's Best Colleges rank schools according to academic quality, in addition to quality of life, the Forbes list is more similar to a consumer's guide, according to its Web site, in that it helps students and parents find and compare schools according to value.
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Villanueva said that no rankings could fully convey to prospective students what kind of experience Richmond offers.
"What we try to do here in this office," he said, "is try to tell the Richmond story to all these different families. So these rankings, none of them fully represent the Richmond story."
Contact staff writer Elizabeth Hyman firstname.lastname@example.org
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