By Brittany DeVries
With its recent high reviews in Forbes.com’s online magazine, US News and World Report, Fiske’s Guide to Colleges, and other nationally recognized surveys, the University of Mary Washington has more reasons to chime its clock tower bells.
In Forbes.com’s recent review of United States public and private institutions in “America’s Best Colleges,” UMW came out 13th among public campuses, and stood 144th overall.
Michael Noer, executive editor of special projects for Forbes.com, commented on the results for this campus.
“In keeping with the 569 colleges that were ranked, 144th is an outstanding result,” Noer said in a phone interview.
Noer teamed up with Ohio State University Economist Richard Vedder, director of the CCAP (Center for College Affordability and Productivity), to conduct this five-part research project. The team looked at student evaluations from RateMyProfessor.com, the notable alumni in “Who’s Who in America,” the number of students that graduate in four years, as well as the amount of debt students collected upon graduation, and the percentage of notable awards presented to students and faculty.
Martin A. Wilder, vice president for Enrollment and Communications, said that UMW’s high rankings result from the quality of its students, and the faculty and their work at the University.
“UMW does very well in the Fiske Guide and other guidebooks and rankings because of the quality of our students, the quality of our faculty, and the quality of our educational programs,” Wilder said.
In the US News and World Report’s 2009 edition of “America’s Best Colleges,” UMW ranked seventh among southern Universities, and 3rd among public universities in that region. Fiske’s Guide to Colleges named UMW in the top 23 bracket of public schools, and 49th among overall public and private institutions. Fiske praised UMW as among the top universities with the best education for a reasonable cost.
Rigorous learning at an affordable price was the same intention Noer and teammate Vedder had in their Forbes.com review.
“We are measuring something different, asking if kids enjoy their experience, if they get out in four years with little debt, and if these people go on to accomplish good things in life,” Noer said.
Senior Patrick Whelan agreed that not only did UMW’s reputation as a small but growing institution lead the way to such high reviews, but also through the success of its faculty.
“It is in large part the success and efforts of our faculty that creates such a rigorous curriculum. It is a small school but constantly growing, and you can’t beat the education you get for its dollar.”
Forbes’ online magazine received many negative comments about the results of their project, including ones that questioned the inaccuracy of results from RateMyProfessor.com and “Who’s Who in America,” the latter a publication that can be bought into. Noer referred to some of the comments as “brand name” and “knee jerking elitism,” and believed that the biased results were countered by results that were right on target.
“There is no reason for US Reports to have a monopoly over this, and we are very pleased that our results don’t replicate rankings, because they have no value otherwise,” Noer said.
Wilder said that Forbes.com’s methodological use of students’ ratings highlighted the teaching excellence that is a hallmark of the campus.
“The fact that UMW is featured in so many national publications does help to build the stature and recognition of the University,” he said. “The Fiske Guide is perhaps the most respected of the various college guidebooks. Their evaluation of UMW is extremely positive.”