October 17, 2019

Webster rises six places in national college ranking

U.S. News & World Report ranked Webster based on on fifteen indicators including student outcomes, expert opinions and faculty resources.

By Vanessa Jones

U.S. News &World Report released its annual Best College Ranking survey last week. The survey placed Webster as 17th in the Midwest Regional University category, the highest ranking Webster has ever received. 

According to U.S. News & World Report methodology listed on its website, the study compares bachelor degree-granting institutions on 15 diverse measures of academic quality. It gives the schools a composited zero to 100 score based on the 15 measures. It then translates the score into the publicized ranking.

Among the 15 indicators, outcomes, expert opinions, and faculty resources of the school are the three heaviest weighted categories in the overall score. 

More than one third of a school’s score is based on its outcomes, or its success at retaining and graduating students within six years. A smaller percentage of the outcome category is based on social mobility, which counts how many students who receive pell grants graduate.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Webster’s retention rate for first time students pursuing a bachelor’s degree is 78%. Webster’s six year graduation rate for men and women pursuing a bachelor’s degree is 59%. 

Graphic by Vanessa Jones

Comparatively, Fontbonne University’s graduation rate is 55% for men and 71% for women. 

Senior Alex Hollingsworth said he believes the ranking is an accurate representation for the school.

“They do give students a good financial start,” Hollingsworth said. “I got a full-ride scholarship based on my academics.”

Hollingsworth, a black student, said while he does not pay tuition, he feels many minority students pay more than they can afford.

“I think I was fortunate, but they definitely could offer more scholarships for minority groups in general,” Hollingsworth said.

Webster ranked 43rd in the midwest category for campus ethinic diversity.

Forbes described the expert opinion as a debatable category. The expert opinion is collective data based on peer assessment surveys. Every year, U.S. News & World Report sends out a questionnaire to presidents, provosts and deans of admissions who are familiar with the institution. They rate the academic quality of their peers on a scale of one to five. U.S. News  then weighs the average ratings from the past two years for the expert opinion score. 

Based on the feedback received from the peer assessment surveys, Webster was recognized for: best value, study abroad, best college for veterans and being an A+ school for B                                                                                                                                                students.

That peer assessment rating counts for 20% of institutions overall score.

Another 20% of the overall score comes from faculty resources. That includes class size, faculty salary and student-to-faculty ratio. 

Adjunct Professor, Terri Reilly, said she wanted to congratulate Webster for its recent recognition by U.S. News & World Report. 

Reilly said the student to faculty ratio is low and faculty receives professional development funding. However, she said she sees a pattern of neglect when it comes to compensation. 

“Faculty salary increases have not kept pace with the cost of living indexes for a number of years,” Reilly said. “Adjunct faculty have not received any salary increase for at least eight years. It’s difficult to find a reason to celebrate the faculty resources ranking given those compensation stats.”

Reilly has taught at Webster for over 30 years, and said she has watched the schools evolution. She said she questions what the recognition will bring to Webster in terms of student enrollment.

Full-time graduate and undergraduate fall enrollment decreased by more than 8,000 from 2009 to 2018 according to data the Emerson Library publishes online.

“I’ve been here for a long time and have seen the ups and downs,” Reilly said. “Unfortunately, Webster has been trending down financially for almost a decade.”

Webster faced its largest operating deficit of 18.7 million dollars for fiscal year 2018 according to consolidated financial statements. In 2018, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded Webster’s bond rating from A2 to Baa1.

Webster had rose six places from its 23rd position last year. Webster was not listed on the outlet’s National University list.

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