by Danielle Durocher
Due to the current economic crisis families are beginning to pay more and more attention to the affordability aspect of college. In relation to this crisis, college rankings have increasingly begun to influence prospective students and their parents. SLU was recently ranked number 59 out of 100 Liberal Arts schools in Kiplinger Magazine.
Jane Clark, author of Kiplinger’s article “Best Value Colleges,” argues that, “As college costs rise, the rankings have become an important guide to families and a showcase for colleges that appear on the list.”
In order to be considered a “value” college the school has to measure up to specific criteria. Colleges are judged on both quality and affordability. For quality, Kiplinger considers factors including admission rate, academic quality of incoming freshmen, the student-faculty ratio and the four-year graduation rate. For affordability, Kiplinger weighs the total sticker price as well as its financial aid and the average debt at graduation.
Prospective students and parents ask SLU a variety of questions upon visiting, including topics such as drug and alcohol policy, financial aid, Greek life, weekend activity, and study abroad.
Sarah Maneely helps train Admissions Ambassadors on campus. She believes that “the impression and questions being answered by tour guides can make or break the image of the college for the prospective visitors,” and if the members of one family have a bad experience, “they are going to tell their friends and soon the negative experience will spread to fifty people.”
Few students on campus even mentioned Kiplinger’s value criteria in their reasoning as to why they looked at SLU. Cailyn Welsh ’14 said, “I applied here because my brother went here and I thought the campus was pretty.” John Jaworski ‘14 applied here because his father went here and he was impressed by Johnson Hall of Science.
However, many students apply to SLU because of its size and its financial aid packages. Maureen McCoy ’13 said “I looked here because both my brother and sister considered St. Lawrence when they were looking at colleges, I thought it was a nice campus, I liked the class size, and I liked the faculty and student relationship.”
The rankings and financial information help parents decide, while the campus tours and visits help students decide. Although rankings are important and do impact prospective opinions, they are not everything when picking a college. In order for SLU to continue to climb in the rankings, it needs to improve on the criteria Kiplinger uses to gauge quality and affordability. This year, Kiplinger tweaked those criteria to give more weight to colleges that post a strong four-year graduation rate and low debt among students who borrow, so colleges that improve on those measures have a better chance of moving up. Right now SLU’s debt among students who borrow is $ 29,489.
Last year SLU was ranked 62 out of 100 colleges and has improved to spot 59. Such things that usually determine this change are on the financial aid side of the criteria. This includes, percent of aid need met, average need-based aid, average non-need-based aid, students receiving non-need-based aid, average aid package, students receiving need-based aid, percent of aid from grants, percent of receiving non-need-based aid, and percent receiving student loans.