By Katie Zeck
Rider moved into 21st place on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best Colleges in the Regional University North division, a 15-spot jump from last year’s ranking of 36.
Rider was tied with Rowan University and three other schools, with only one other New Jersey school out of the 17 in its division, The College of New Jersey, ahead of Rider on the list.
There are 193 schools in Rider’s division.
A combination of new facilities, accredited academic programs, sustainability efforts, and student ambition were some of the main reasons cited for the improved ranking.
Rider also was again included in The Princeton Review’s list of The Best 376 Colleges, and was ranked 520 on Forbes’ list of America’s top 650 colleges—up from 568 last year.
There are 2,618 accredited four-year colleges and universities there are in the United States, according to the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
“The fact that we’re in the top tier of Northeastern universities has been helpful to us,” said Dean of Students Anthony Campbell. “Moving up 15 places [on the US News and World Report’s Best Colleges List] just shows that we’re getting even better.”
“I’m sure the new building and improved theater helped, as well as the ongoing beautification of the campus,” said senior secondary education and history major Keith Warncke when asked to give his thought on why the university rose in the ranks. “Rider also has a lot of good programs, like business and education, that continue to improve.”
The magazine ranks the colleges and universities in their respective regions based on quality and value.
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 system also is used by the U.S. Department of Education as a way to organize data and determine which schools are most eligible for grants.
According to U.S. News, 75 percent of a school’s ranking is based on a formula that measures academic quality, consisting of student retention rate, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.
The other 25 percent is based on a survey of high school gudiance counselors and peer assessment from the other colleges in the category of that school in which the president, provost and dean of admissions rate the quality of academics of the school. According to the U.S. News’ website, the annual rankings overall produce a measurement of a school’s “student body, its faculty, academics and its financial resources, along with outcome measures that signal how well the institution does its job of educating students.”
So why the big jump for Rider?
“I loved that with the addition of the new buildings the campus looks so much more clean and beautiful,” said freshman Emmy Abdill. “It makes the campus just an altogether great place to live and learn.”
Freshman Sami Glick also opted to attend Rider because of the progresses in these certain areas.
“I chose Rider because they have a great academic program for my major, and it was eco-friendly,” she said.
The current seniors that have seen the improvements occuring at Rider over the span of four years have noticed the positive reputation these changes have provided the school.
“The nice new building and revamped theater are probably what caused the jump,” said secondary education and history major Michelle Meredith. “I feel like [Rider] has also been doing more free stuff like amazing food at University Day and Cranberry Fest.”
Dean of Enrollment Jamie O’Hara believes that Rider’s success on the national stage is a credit to “the continued success of our students.”
“Rider has improved the academic profile of the students that it accepts and the percentage of students who graduate in four years,” he said. “Additionally, Rider increased its reputation score, which is compiled from peer institutions and the high school guidance community. This is a reflection of our talented faculty, staff and students and the investment that has been made to improve our campus facilities over the last seven years.”
Despite such advancements in the university’s overall reputation, O’Hara feels that Rider’s new spot on U.S News’ Best Colleges list won’t change the current rate of undergraduate enrollment. He believes that it is important for prospective students to consider the rankings, but also visit Rider and see if it is the right fit for them.
“The higher ranking will not affect the university admission rate of enrollment,” he said. “However, some of the areas that the survey tracks including student selectivity, retention and peer assessment, are important to the health of any university. Because Rider continues to show progress in these critical areas, we will see benefits beyond this reporting.”
For Campbell, one of Rider’s main attributes and reasons for going up the 15 spots is the students’ ambition to not only graduate, but graduate with honors, awards and experience.
“They are taking advantage of some of the co-ops and internships and that helps in the reputational part of the university,” he said.
Campbell feels that the work Rider students put forth on and off campus in the many different organizations they are involved in reflects positively on the university.
“When you start looking at how we as an institution are doing in the number of Fulbright scholars, the number of students who’ve won the state teaching awards, how we’re doing with Model UN, our students are really achieving at a high level nationally. I think that has had a lot to do with our ranking as well.”
He added that the quality of student Rider attracts also increase the school’s overall character.
“They’re seeing that there is a value at Rider, that there is something special about this place and our community,” he said. “When people come here and make Rider their home and they make it their community, they tend to add that energy.”
To read more on the advancements Rider has made in the past year for it to earn the new spot on U.S. News’ Best College list, visit www.nj.com for an editorial by The Times of Trenton on the universties improvements.