Samford University continued its upward spiral in the U.S. News & World Report college rankings, rising 12 spots to 104th among national doctoral research universities in the 2011 rankings released publicly at midnight Aug. 17.
Samford also was ranked as one of the top 20 national universities for graduates with the least debt at graduation.
Samford was first classified as a national doctoral research university in the 2009 rankings, entering the rankings’ top tier at 128th. Last year, Samford ranked 116th among the 262 national universities. Previously Samford had spent 17 consecutive years as one of the top 10 master’s level universities in the South.
In the 2011 rankings, Samford tied for 104th with Florida State University, Howard University and the universities of Nebraska, New Hampshire and Tennessee. The top four spots in the national university category went to Ivy League universities – Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Columbia – followed by Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania tied for fifth.
“While these rankings are only one measure of a university’s success, it is obvious that Samford’s growing national reputation is being recognized both by our peer institutions and by those who choose to rank the nation’s top universities,” Samford President Andrew Westmoreland said. “The latest rankings also reflect the hard work of our faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends to achieve the highest quality academic standards while maintaining Samford’s unique Christian mission.”
Westmoreland also stressed Samford’s affordability, evidenced by the top ranking for graduates with the least debt. Samford’s total costs for the 2009-10 academic year were about 37 percent below the national average for private institutions.
“We are keenly aware of the cost of a college education in the midst of a fluctuating economy, and we try to balance the cost to a Samford student with providing the highest quality product we can,” Westmoreland said. “We believe that our graduates, and their parents, understand the value of a Samford education.”
The university’s increased emphasis on recruiting top students is evident in the latest rankings, Westmoreland noted, with 44 percent of the freshman class in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class and increased average scores on national entrance exams.
U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings are based on classifications established by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. More than 1,400 higher education institutions then are grouped in four categories – national universities, liberal arts colleges, universities—master’s and baccalaureate colleges. The schools in the universities-master’s and baccalaureate categories are ranked in four geographic regions.
U.S. News also used data from several indicators of academic quality to tabulate the final rankings, including peer assessments, undergraduate academic reputation, retention and graduation rates, percentages of classes with fewer than 20 students and more than 50 students, acceptance rates and alumni giving rates.
Westmoreland specifically noted that less than two percent of Samford’s undergraduate classes have more than 50 students, one of the lowest percentages in the national university classification.
Samford compared favorably with peer institutions in the rankings. Five Alabama universities are classified as national doctoral research universities, with the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa (tied for 79th) and Auburn University (85th) ranked slightly ahead. The University of Alabama-Birmingham (151st) and the University of Alabama-Huntsville (179th) also are ranked in the national category.
Baylor University (tied for 76th) is the only other Baptist institution in the national doctoral research classification.
Samford also was the highest ranked Southern Conference-member school. The University of North Carolina-Greensboro (191st) and Georgia Southern University are classified as national universities. The other nine SoCon schools are ranked as liberal arts or regional universities.
Samford also is the only member of the prestigious organization The New American Colleges and Universities that is classified as a national doctoral research university.
(Editor’s Note: Additional rankings information will be available later in the week.)