By Katie Zeck
This year, Rider made university history when it reached its highest ranking to date on the U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 “America’s Best Colleges” list — number 18 out of 193 regional universities in the North.
This ranking is up eight spots from last year’s ranking of 26. In addition, Rider jumped a total of 72 spots on Forbes magazine’s 2014 “Top Colleges” list and appeared again on the Princeton Review’s “Best 378 Colleges.”
Rider shares the 18 spot on the U.S. News with Rowan — a New Jersey public school that ranked seven spots above Rider in 2013. The only other New Jersey college ranked higher than Rider on the list this year was The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) at number four. This places Rider ahead of 175 others in its division, based on U.S. News’ methodology.
Needless to say, the university administration is very pleased with Rider’s new home on these national rankings and credits Rider’s successful graduates and quality of academics, student support programs and faculty and staff as the main reasons Rider improved so significantly.
“I am very proud of our results,” president Mordechai Rozanski said. “I believe that the most important factors contributing to our improved rankings are Rider’s strong student outcomes and higher reputation scores, both a reflection of our academic excellence. So our improved graduation rate, one important measure of student outcomes, was an influential factor, among others.”
Students across campus are proud of Rider’s increase on these reputable and national lists.
“In the three years since I’ve been a student here at Rider, the university has undergone many improvements,” said senior popular music culture major Tiffany Morales. “A new academic building, renovated dining halls, new residence halls, new majors, all of it has helped Rider improve it’s reputation amongst other schools. These new rankings make me proud to attend a school that takes pride in consistently bettering itself like Rider has.”
In comparison to Rider’s 18 spot, Monmouth ranked 30 in the northern regional universities category. Ramapo came in at number 33, Montclair at number 54 Fairleigh Dickinson at number 69.
According to U.S. News’ website, regional universities are not ranked nationally, but against their peer group in four geographic regions – North, South, Midwest and West – because these schools recruit predominantly from nearby states.
The schools are divided into categories and then rated based on the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, a sorting system U.S. News has used for its rankings since 1983.
The regional university category, which includes Rider, defines the schools in its division as four-year universities with full-range undergraduate programs, some master’s programs and a few, if any, doctoral programs.
This reputational rating, according to Jamie O’Hara, vice president of Enrollment Management, is based on “opinions of presidents, provosts and enrollment leaders who have indicated that they see Rider as a strong academic institution with talented faculty and administrators, and an organization committed to the development of the individual student.”
“Rider also benefited from the new emphasis that U.S. News has placed on outcomes,” O’Hara said. “The pace at which our students graduate from Rider and the success that they achieve in entering the workforce has helped to increase our ranking in U.S. News.”
Rozanski expressed a similar sentiment.
“This score assesses Rider’s overall quality as determined by an external group of top academics,” he said. “The U.S. News’ ranking formula gives significant weight to the opinions of these individuals who are in a position to judge a school’s undergraduate academic excellence and important intangibles such as faculty dedication to teaching, areas in which Rider excels.”
The Forbes’ methodology for its “Top Colleges” list is based primarily on participation of students and alumni from the nation’s various institutions. Specifically, salaries of alumni from payscale.com make up 15% of a school’s score.
“The Forbes’ list of 650 schools distinguishes itself from competitors by our belief in ‘output’ over ‘input,’” says the magazine’s methodology description. “We’re not all that interested in what gets a student into college, like our peers who focus heavily on selectivity metrics such as high school class rank, SAT scores and the like.”
When asked how the university hopes to maintain the strong standing it received on this year’s lists, both O’Hara and Rozanski cited a continuation of student-centeredness at Rider.
“Rider needs to continue to do what it does every day – put students first,” O’Hara said. “We should not look to position ourselves in a way that will improve our rankings. We should continue to do what we commit to everyday, and that is to improve the Rider student experience. The rankings will reflect this commitment.”
O’Hara feels the reputation boost won’t have too much of an impact on the upcoming recruitment season, but might help validate prospective students’ final decision come next spring.
“Typically the only influence a ranking like U.S. News has during the recruitment cycle is to encourage the student and family to visit if they are not already familiar with the school,” he said. “Improved rankings help a university when a student is compiling the list of schools that they would like to consider to visit. Parents may encourage a student to put a school on their list if the school has a strong ranking.”
Senior public relations major Holly Jennings felt that Rider’s geographical location contributed to its success on these lists.
“There are so many great opportunities at Rider,” she said. “Rider has rose to the top of multiple ‘Best College’ lists because of it’s ideal location. I’ve done several internships and have had access to a number of great companies in the Northeast Corridor. If you attend Rider, the options are endless. Positioned between Philadelphia and New York, Rider has connections to some of the best employment prospects.”