College rankings have increasingly influenced the decisions of prospective SLU students and their parents. There is a consensus that families are focusing their attention on the affordability of a college due to the recent financial crisis. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine recently rated SLU at number 59 out of 100 for best valued liberal arts schools.
“As college costs rise, the rankings have become an important guide to families and a showcase for colleges that appear on the list,” Jane Clark said, author of Kiplinger’s article “Best Value Colleges.”
Kiplinger Magazine ranks colleges based on quantitative and financial measures. Some of the financial measures are student test scores, student-to-faculty ratio, admissions rate and retention rates of first-year students. Kiplinger’s financial or qualitative measures evaluate the overall cost of the college, fees and book expenses, accumulated student debt after graduation and the average need-based aid awarded to students.
For this year’s ranking, Kiplinger tweaked some of the criteria. “This year Kiplinger added the yield of a college to the criteria,” Senior Associate Editor at Kiplinger, Marc Wojno, said. Yield is the percentage of students admitted who decided to ultimately enroll in that university. Kiplinger also looked at colleges that post a strong four-year graduation rate and low debt among students who borrow – potentially helping colleges that improve on those measures a better chance of moving up in the rankings.
When prospective students and parents visit SLU, they inquire about a variety of topics such as drugs and alcohol policies, financial aid, Greek life, weekend activity and study abroad opportunities.
Parents typically focus on the rankings and financial aid information when deciding where they would like to send their sons and daughters. Although rankings have an impact on a student’s decision to attend a college, they are not the primary choice. Students focus on the campus tours and visits.
For many students their reason for attending SLU is because past family members also attended 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 attended and he was impressed by Johnson Hall of Science.
However, many students also apply to SLU because of its size and its financial aid packages. “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,” Maureen McCoy ’13 said.
Wojno notes that when he was looking at colleges, he looked for a low student-to-faculty ratio because it improves with the quality of academics.
Sarah Maneely, an admissions counselor who assists in training Admissions Ambassadors on campus, believes that the impression prospective visitors have when they go on a tour can make-or-break the image of the college. “If the members of a family have a bad experience they are going to tell their friends and soon the negative experience will spread to fifty people,” Maneely said.
Last year SLU ranked 62 out or 100 in Kiplinger, meaning the university has moved up by three spots. This climb is usually determined by the financial aspect of the criteria, such as the financial aid packages, need and non-need based, students receive. SLU is among the nations most expensive schools, which makes it important to have a strong foundation that will attract future students.