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August 19, 2010

USAO earns top billing in U.S. News

* Local university featured on NBC's Today Show last week

— Most schools will have to look up to find the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma on the U.S. News and World Report College Guide.

Sandwiched between Harvard and Yale in a feature segment on NBC’s Today Show Tuesday morning, USAO will be listed by U.S. News and World Report as the highest ranked Oklahoma school in any category when the annual college guide hits newsstands on Friday.

It will be the local university's ninth consecutive year to be listed.

USAO has been a top-ranked school for years in U.S. News, but a salute for quality on The Today Show was a first.

Ranked for the fourth time on the exclusive “Great Schools, Great Prices” list in U.S. News Best Colleges Guide, USAO holds onto its No. 1 spot among all baccalaureate colleges – public and private – in the western United States this fall.  USAO is ranked No. 1 on the “best buys” list for both academic quality and reasonable cost, according to the magazine’s website.

“Of the total 1,472 colleges and universities ranked by U.S. News for 2011, only 190 are included on the 'best buys' list,” said USAO President John Feaver. “Of those select schools listed in “Great Schools, Great Prices,” only 13 schools are public. The rest are private. This places USAO among some of the best private schools in America.”

The honor of being selected by U.S. News again is “exponentially increased by today’s special feature on The Today Show,” Feaver said. “Only a dozen schools in America were chosen by NBC for this segment on Today.  Our alumni all over the world take pride that Oklahoma’s public liberal arts college was among them.”

In the magazine, USAO is ranked among the “Best Regional Colleges,” a new category which replaced the “Baccalaureate Colleges” list.  In the western United States, USAO is listed 14th – or in the top tier -- among undergraduate colleges.

Academic reputation is a key factor, Feaver said. “USAO's academic quality rating is 3.4, according to the magazine's formula. That puts us among the solid private schools on the list, and is the central reason we do well among all public schools.

“Of the 319 schools listed in the Regional Colleges category, USAO is ranked in the top 6 percent academically,” Feaver said.

Add small class sizes, low student-teacher ratios and affordability, and that pushes USAO’s ranking higher.

“This distinctive list is based on the ‘best value’ as it relates to a school’s academic quality,” Feaver continued. “The higher the quality of the program and the lower the cost, the better the deal. USAO was the only public college in Oklahoma listed as a ‘best value.’”

Other positive indicators for USAO include a premium student-to-faculty ratio, which is 15:1.

Besides quality, USAO also earned praise by the magazine for helping students achieve their educational goals with less debt. Only 92 schools across America – in all categories – are included on the “Least Debt” list. USAO is one of the 20 “Regional” colleges nationally whose students graduate with least debt. This year, USAO ranked No. 4 in the western United States.

"We ranked in the top five in the west for students graduating with the least debt and 42 percent of our students graduated debt-free,” said Mike Coponiti, vice president for business and finance. “Combine those facts with our academic ranking and students find solid value here; USAO stands out in the nation.”

Greater statewide and national visibility is a key component in the Mission Enhancement Plan, launched in 2005. Endorsed by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the 10-year strategic map for advancement will continue to raise the bar for academics, campus life and development.

“The MEP is our plan to raise internal standards by increasing faculty numbers, making our wage structure more nationally competitive, and placing greater emphasis on faculty-guided undergraduate research and service learning,” Marble said. “As part of this plan, we also have dramatically raised our admission standards.

"No institution in Oklahoma has higher admission standards.”

What earns a college the right to join the “Best Colleges” list? According to U.S. News, the key factors are academic reputation, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, selectivity in accepting freshmen, alumni giving and financial resources.

According to its website, U.S. News & World Report uses a proprietary methodology to judge schools on 15 widely accepted indicators of excellence, designed to help consumers evaluate and compare data compiled from more than 1,470 colleges and universities. Schools are assigned to categories based on a system created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Providing all that data to U.S. News each year is the job of Lynn Boyce, vice president for information services and technology for USAO.  She praised the magazine as a solid, independent judge of the data.

“It was a pleasure to see USAO in the top rankings in the Regional Colleges category,” Boyce said.  

“And with USAO’s continuing improvement in critical areas, such as retention rates, alumni giving, and the quality of its faculty, we should continue to hold high rankings.  

In addition, I believe the high quality of the education to be obtained at USAO is reflected in its No. 1 ranking on the ‘best buys’ list.”

More information about the rankings is available at www.usnews.com. Links are provided at www.usao.edu.

 

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