WEST PLAINS, Mo. – Missouri State University-West Plains has been ranked sixth in the nation in the Best Community Colleges category of the 2013 Washington Monthly College Rankings.
Editors of the Washington, D.C.-based publication released their rankings Monday, Aug. 26, at http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/toc_2013.php. According to the website, the rankings, which also are offered for national universities and liberal arts colleges, are designed to recognize colleges that act on behalf of the “true public interest” by offering a quality, affordable education to all students, not just an elite few.
“We designed the Washington Monthly college rankings to embody the American higher education compact at the institutional level,” editors said in their introduction to this year’s rankings. “Instead of lauding colleges for closing their doors to all but an elite few, we give high marks to institutions that enroll low-income students, help them graduate, and don’t charge them an arm and a leg to attend. Universities that bring in research dollars are rewarded by our standards, as are those whose undergraduates go on to earn PhDs. And we recognize institutions that are committed to public service, both in the way they teach and in encouraging students to enter service-focused careers.”
The magazine began publishing its annual rankings eight years ago, according to the website.
“What a great way to start off the school year of our 50th anniversary, with another independent verification that Missouri State-West Plains is one of the best educational opportunities around, not only for this region and Missouri, but nationwide,” said Chancellor Drew Bennett. “I think it is important that one of the areas in our country that needs educational opportunities the most has access to one of the best in the country.”
Editors at Washington Monthly based their rankings for community colleges on two sources of information: The Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) and the U.S. Department of Education measures of student retention and completion.
The CCSSE survey, which is given to a representative sample of students at many of the nation’s community colleges, is comprised of over 100 questions on a range of topics, including teaching practices, student workload, interaction with faculty, and student support. The CCSSE combines the results into aggregate “benchmark” scores in five categories: Active and Collaborative Learning, Student Effort, Academic Challenge, Student-Faculty Interaction, and Support for Learners.
These benchmark scores comprise five-eighths of each college’s ranking, editors said. The remaining three-eighths come from data compiled annually by the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education. These include statistics for first-year retention rate; the percentage of first-time, full-time, degree-seeking students who graduate or transfer within three years of enrolling; and the ratio of all degrees awarded during a given academic year to the number of full-time equivalent students enrolled. These data sources and methods used to calculate the three U.S. Department of Education statistics are identical to those used by the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Missouri State-West Plains has been recognized twice by the Aspen Institute Community College Excellence Program as one of the top 120 two-year colleges in the nation.
For more information about Washington Monthly’s annual rankings, visit http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/toc_2013.php.