For the ninth time in the past 10 years, "U.S. News and World Report" ranked Saint Mary's College was ranked the number one Midwest Comprehensive College offering bachelor's degrees.
The 109 colleges in this category are institutions in the Midwest that focus on undergraduate education, but grant fewer than 50 percent of their degrees in liberal arts disciplines. In addition, comprehensive colleges include institutions where at least 10 percent of the undergraduate degrees awarded are bachelors'.
"U.S. News" evaluates schools in six key areas: peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.
Saint Mary's earned an overall score of 100, ranking highly in average freshmen retention rate, average graduation rate, alumni giving and student-teacher ratio.
"The faculty at Saint Mary's play a huge role," said Melanie McDonald, director of public relations at Saint Mary's. "They are a major reason for the College's excellent reputation, which is measured in the peer assessment category. They also greatly influence Saint Mary's scores in the categories of graduation and retention rates and faculty resources. Combined, these three areas amount to 70 percent of the total assessment."
The College said it welcomes the recognition and publicity brought by the annual study.
"These rankings are well recognized by parents and students, and are therefore an important third-party endorsement of the College's success," said Saint Mary's College President Marilou Eldred. "The guidebook also brings greater visibility to smaller institutions like ours that are often viewed as hidden treasures."
Holding the top position for so long also leads to increased publicity for the college.
"Any college that consistently ranks in the top of its category is clearly an academically sound institution with a well-established tradition of excellence," McDonald said. "When you're number one nine out of 10 years, it isn't a fluke."
Students find the ranking impressive but not necessarily a point of persuasion. Freshman Eileen Boyce first heard of the ranking at the president's address during orientation weekend.
"The ranking is great for the school, but I would never base my decision on a college just because of its national ranking," she said. "I came to Saint Mary's because of the beautiful campus, friendly people and academics; I was not even aware of the report."
The College hopes the report cultivates interest in high school women and pride in current students.
"The ranking gives Saint Mary's students one more reason to be proud of themselves and of the college they have chosen to attend," McDonald said.