Two Number Ones?

September 19, 2013 Campus, News

Rollins College is ranked #1 in the South again, but this time, Rollins shares the spotlight with Elon University.

Rollins is Number One in the South again! Well sort of…

If you have come across R-Net, Rollins 360, The Sandspur Facebook page, or anything else Rollins-related, you probably have heard that for the ninth consecutive year, Rollins achieved first place in the Regional University South category in the US News and World Report’s annual college ranking edition. However, for the first time in its nine-year streak, Rollins ties in first place with another institution, Elon University.

Elon is another private, relatively small (5,357 undergraduate students) liberal arts college with many similarities to Rollins; it has a selective admissions process, it was founded only four years after Rollins, it emphasizes study abroad experiences, and even has a news and public relations online page called “e-net.”

Both Rollins and Elon representatives have advertised their respective school as Number One in the South, but is that really fair? Dan Anderson, Vice President for Communications at Elon, believes it is.

“US News states that the schools that are awarded that ranking have the legitimate claim to that number. It is a tie; there is no inconsistencies in saying that each school is number 1… Both Rollins and Elon are doing what every other school does—improving programs and learning experiences for students,” Anderson said.

He goes on to express his disappointment in others that are emphasizing the tie. “I find it unfortunate that people would focus on numerical rankings. It fails to show the point of US News Rankings—for families and students to find the schools that are right for them. Some people might focus on the numerical ranking and might see a big ranking between number 1 and number 2 and number 3. But the fact is that all the schools that make rankings in US News are quality institutions.”

…college rankings still cause much discussion and attention every year that it is released, and Rollins College is proud to continue the tradition of its top rank in the magazine…

Rollins representatives are extremely happy with the ranking, regardless of a tie.

“We continue to be a top-ranked institution because of our commitment to academic excellence, and we are pleased the voters have once again recognized Rollins as one of the nation’s best institutions of higher education,” says Lauren Bradley, Director of Public Affairs, Marketing, and Communication.

Holly Pohlig, Director of Admissions, adds, “We are very happy to be ranked #1 in the South again. We understand that every year the ranking criteria change, and we are thrilled to come out on top again.”

Pohlig is correct to say that US News changes their ranking methodology almost annually. This year, graduation and retention rates comprise 22.5 percent of total ranking, up from 20 percent last year, while “student selectivity” (competitiveness of freshman applicants) comprises 12.5 percent, down from 15 percent last year. This is due to US News’ increased emphasis on the “output” of colleges. Other factors in the ranking included financial resources (10 percent) and faculty resources (20 percent).

The US News rankings certainly are not without their critics. Both CBS Marketwatch and The Washington Post have published articles criticizing the accuracy of the rankings.

In The Washington Post article, titled “Why US News college rankings shouldn’t matter to anyone,” Valerie Strauss mentions that one of the factors in the rankings is “undergraduate academic reputation” with a 22.5 percent weighting, and that this particular ranking is purely subjective. Others argue that every student has an individual “best fit,” and that a ranking in a magazine cannot provide a student with significant information for the college decision process.

Despite the criticisms, US News and World Report’s college rankings still cause much discussion and attention every year that it is released, and Rollins College is proud to continue the tradition of its top rank in the magazine (although I’m sure Rollins wants to kick Elon’s ass again next year).

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