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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

Holy Cross College ranks in the top 25 Best Midwest Regional Colleges

After being ranked No. 34 in the 2021 Best Midwest Regional Colleges report by the U.S. News and World Report, Holy Cross College shot up to 23rd in the 2022 rankings. Additionally, the College achieved rankings of 13th for Top Performers on Social Mobility, 27th for Best Value Schools in the Midwest and first for Alumni Giving in the Midwest.

The recent release of these rankings were a cause for celebration at Holy Cross College.

And celebrate they did — following the release of the report, the administration sent an email announcing free ice cream for all students.

The U.S. News and World Report methodology for its rankings considers graduation and retention rates, faculty resources and alumni giving among other facts.

In particular, retention rates are very influential to the U.S. News and World Report’s methodology. In prior years’ rankings, the College’s Gateway Program negatively impacted these rates. 

Each year at Holy Cross, the College hosts the Holy Cross-Notre Dame Gateway Program for first-years. After completion of their first year at Holy Cross, as long as they maintain a 3.5 GPA and remain in good standing with both institutions, Gateway Scholars transfer to Notre Dame to continue their education.

Previously, enrollment numbers in the Gateway Program counted against the College’s retention rate — seeing as Gateway Scholars enroll at Holy Cross but later transition to the University after their first year, these students were considered to be a failure in retention. With an total undergraduate population of only 455 students, and each Gateway cohort including around 75 students (though the fall 2020 and fall 2021 cohorts had 81 and 96 students, respectively), this penalty on Holy Cross was severe.

Interim provost Dr. Michael Griffin explained to The Observer that he expressed his concerns about affected retention rates to those in charge of the rankings.

“We went to them and said, basically, ‘This is crazy — we are succeeding when these students move on to Notre Dame,’” Griffin wrote in an email Wednesday.

Also contributing to Holy Cross’s improvement are new faculty hires, Griffin noted. Notable additions in the past few years have been Dr. John Biddle, a physicist from Harvard, Dr. Anthony Monta from Notre Dame’s Nanovic Institute and Dr. Emily Ransom, an English professor hailing from the University of Wisconsin.

Griffin praised the new faculty additions and their work in solidifying Holy Cross’s reputation.

“These are some of the professors whose classes are now gaining traction in the tri-campus community and they are helping to put us on the map among our peers,” Griffin said.

Holy Cross junior Gabriel Benito Ibarra said he is also excited about Holy Cross’s improved ranking.

“I think it’s really cool that we’re rising in ranking,” Ibarra said. “I know that in the South Bend-Mishawka area, we’re known as a pretty good school.”

Ibarra said he believes Holy Cross has strength in its mission in part because of its small size and the individualized focus each student can receive.

“Holy Cross follows the mission very well; you can really see how the students are shaped by it,” he said.

Ibarra also expressed concern for the College being forgotten about among a tri-campus community with two bigger schools next door.

“It’s encouraging to see that our school is getting the recognition it deserves, because I feel like we get underappreciated,” he said. “I always call us the ‘little brother school,’ and I want the little brother to be given a chance.”

Ibarra, who worked as a Welcome Weekend Leader for incoming first-years this year, said he has noticed a number of changes in the school’s priorities since his first year.

“A lot of changes are happening,” he said. “They want to have a bigger emphasis on the traditional students — as opposed to mainly students planning on transferring to Notre Dame — which is not what I felt like when I first got here.”

One important step in this process, Ibarra said, is teaching students to take pride in their Holy Cross experience, instead of comparing themselves to students at the two neighboring campuses.

“My first year, I was afraid of the Notre Dame kids,” Ibarra said. “I would love to see a better intercampus community at the school.”

In a press release, College President Rev. David T. Tyson expressed a similar desire to grow the school’s image within the tri-campus community.

“I can say, as a proud Triple Domer myself, that Notre Dame, Indiana is more interesting, more complete, more excellent, because Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross are here, too,” Tyson wrote.