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Juniata Makes Significant Rise in Two National College Ranking Polls

(Posted August 20, 2009)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College is used to being the steadily improving institution of higher education in national polls, inching its way up as more and more opinion makers recognized the quality of the college. This year, however, Juniata made a Michael Jordan-esque leap in national ratings when the college jumped 13 spots in the U.S. News & World Report Rankings released today, and in the Forbes.com rankings, which rated Juniata 75th in the nation in its recently released "America's Top Colleges 2009" poll.

Juniata was ranked 85th in the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the U.S. News & World Report poll, a 13-spot jump from a 98 ranking last year. "College presidents aren't supposed to say that we are surprised by our ratings, but Juniata's move up the rankings means that more and more people are aware of our educational successes and outcomes and we are overjoyed at that recognition," says Thomas R. Kepple, president of Juniata College.

"College presidents aren't supposed to say that we are surprised by our ratings, but Juniata's move up the rankings means that more and more people are aware of our educational successes and outcomes and we are overjoyed at that recognition."
Thomas R. Kepple, president of Juniata College.

Juniata, which was rated 113th in the Forbes poll last year, was rated just below the Ivy League's Brown University (72nd) and the University of California, Berkeley (73rd). In addition, Juniata was rated ahead of such Pennsylvania institutions as Lafayette (99th), the University of Pennsylvania (83rd), Muhlenberg (124th), Gettysburg (250th), Susquehanna University (251st), Villanova (263rd) and Penn State University (324th).

Juniata was one of just six Pennsylvania institutions rated in the top 75, including Swarthmore (12th), Haverford (15th), Bryn Mawr (35th), Franklin & Marshall (36th) and Bucknell University (46th).

"Forbes.com has constructed a poll that takes opinion and politics out of the college rankings and focuses their survey on issues that directly concern students looking for a great educational experience," says Kepple. "The Forbes poll asks questions that students always ask. 'Will my classes be interesting?' 'Will I graduate in four years?' 'How much debt will I have when I graduate?'"

In Forbes.com's poll of Top 100 private colleges, Juniata ranked 67th in the nation. "We applaud Forbes for trying to come up with a more democratic, outcomes-based model," Kepple says.

The poll weighed its ratings by analyzing a variety of data. The magazine based 25 percent of the rankings on 4 million student evaluations of courses and instructors on the Web site RateMyProfessors.com. Another 25 percent analyzes postgraduate success, with equal weight being given to the average salaries of graduates as reported by Payscale.com and to enrollment-adjusted entries in "Who's Who in America."

Additionally, another 20 percent takes into account the estimated average student debt after four years. Another sixth (16.6 percent) of the rankings are based on the college's four-year graduation rate, which is broken down into equally weighed factors: the actual graduation rate and the gap between the average rate and a predicted rate based on the characteristics of the school.

Finally, the rankings also take into account the number of students or faculty, adjusted for enrollment, who have won nationally competitive prizes such as a Rhodes Scholarship or a Nobel Prize.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy, a financial journalist and author of "The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price," had this to say about the Forbes poll (Full disclosure: O'Shaughnessy's daughter attends Juniata). "The Forbes methodology ignores reputation. Instead it attempts to measure the quality of learning that takes place at these institutions. And that's a monumental improvement over the popular rankings that U.S. News & World report cranks out each year, which focus foremost on reputation."

Juniata's placement of 85 in the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the U.S. News & World Report poll is its highest rating ever in the first tier, according to the publication's issue "America's Best Colleges." There are 217 liberal arts colleges included in the survey.

Juniata shares the 85th ranking with three other institutions: Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa.; Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa; and Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky.

According to guidelines established by the Carnegie Foundation and adopted by U.S. News, institutions that award at least 50 percent of their undergraduate degrees in liberal arts are defined as liberal arts schools. There are more than 200 liberal arts colleges, comprising four tiers.

Juniata also is one of just 40 colleges featured in the ever-popular college guidebook "Colleges That Change Lives," by a former New York Times education editor, the late Loren Pope. Pope's book continues to be used as a prime resource to research the college experience by prospective college students.

Juniata also was chosen as one of the nation's best institutions for undergraduate education, according to the Princeton Review, the New York-based company known for its education, admission and test-prep services. Juniata is one of 371 institutions featured in the 2010 edition of the Princeton Review annual college guide "The Best 371 Colleges." Juniata also is listed for the second year in a row in the "Fiske Guide to Colleges 2010."



Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.