USAO Moves Up in U.S. News -- A #1 'Best Buy' Again
Ranked for the third time on the exclusive “Great Schools, Great Prices” list in U.S.News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges guide, the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma 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.
Only 13 percent of all colleges and universities ranked by U.S. News across the U.S. are included on the “best buys” list. The 2010 edition will hit newsstands nationwide on Friday.
“For the eighth year in a row, USAO remains the highest-ranked public college in Oklahoma in the annual rankings by America’s Best Colleges,” Feaver said.
USAO rose to fourth on the “Top Public Baccalaureate Colleges” list in the western United States and moved up to 14th – or in the top tiers -- among undergraduate colleges in America on the magazine’s “Baccalaureate Colleges” list.
Academic reputation is a key factor, Feaver said. “USAO's academic quality rating is 3.3, 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 baccalaureate colleges listed, USAO is ranked in the top 11 percent academically,” Feaver said. “Less than 7 percent have a higher academic ranking.”
Add small class sizes, low student-teacher ratios and affordability, and that pushes USAO’s ranking higher.
“In the ‘Great Schools, Great Prices’ list, 190 colleges and universities are included nationally,” Feaver said. “USAO appears as the top ranked baccalaurate college in the western United States. USAO is one of only 12 public institutions included on the full list. Of the 40 baccalaureate colleges listed, USAO is one of only two public schools. Our faculty, students and alumni take great pride in this recognition.”
“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.’”
Besides quality, USAO also earned praise by the magazine for helping students achieve their educational goals with less debt. Only 90 schools across America – in all categories – are included on the “Least Debt” list. USAO is one of the 20 “Baccalaureate” colleges nationally whose students graduate with least debt. This year, USAO moved up to No. 3 in the western United States.
"We ranked in the top five in the west for students graduating with the least debt and 41 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 Oklahoma higher education.”
Other positive indicators for USAO include freshman retention, rising to 65 percent; and student-to-faculty ratio, which has dropped another point to 15:1.
Greater statewide and national visibility is a key component in USAO’s Mission Enhancement Plan (MEP), 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,” said Dr. Sanders Huguenin, vice president for academic affairs. “As part of this plan, we’re also in the midst of dramatically raising our admission standards. All Oklahoma state institutions determine admissibility on three criteria. Two of these take into account class rank and GPA. One allows instant access based solely on a minimum ACT score. Like the University of Oklahoma, the minimum ACT required to enter USAO is a 24. We’re raising all three admissions criteria and by fall 2010 all of them will be equal to the highest in Oklahoma.”
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 1,500 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, chief information officer 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 Baccalaureate Colleges category,” Boyce said. “And with USAO’s continuing improvement in critical areas, such as freshmen 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.
Freshman class president Tashina Ototno (left) takes her place on stage next to Tia White, president of the USAO Student Government Association, during a matriculation ceremony that welcomed 182 freshman to the campus in August.