University working to improve rating

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Clare Myers
Contributing Writer

The University of Dallas was ranked 14th in the Western region of the “Regional Universities” category in “U.S. News and World Report’s” annual Best Colleges Report. Released Sept. 13, the list included 140 universities, 34 of which are in Texas. Of the schools in Texas, UD was second only to Trinity University in San Antonio.

The recent ranking makes UD more noticeable, but the university can further rise in the ranks by increasing its financial resources, alumni donations and student retention, according to members of the administration.

Dr. Kathleen Burk, associate dean of Constantin College of Liberal Arts, said that “for a long time, one of [UD’s] biggest problems was the lack of awareness of who we are and what we do.”

One of the most important benefits of receiving a high ranking is the name recognition. Because the school is only a little over half a century old, “people say they’ve never heard of it,” said John Plotts, the vice president of enrollment. Earning the number 14 spot on a prestigious list helps put the name of the school on the map.

“It takes a while for the school to develop a reputation, but this is certainly a major selling point to have this type of recognition,” Plotts said. “It gets more students interested in UD.”

Although some argue that college ratings are inaccurate or biased, lists compiled by such sources as “U.S. News and World Report” or “Princeton Review” can make a difference in how a university is perceived by the public. Where a college stands in relation to other schools often plays a part in an incoming student’s decision.

“U.S. News and World Report” takes many different factors into account when rating colleges. Undergraduate academic reputation – as judged by academic peers – and the retention rate from freshman to sophomore year are each weighted at 25 percent of the overall ranking.

The rating system also accounts for faculty resources and student selectivity, as well as financial resources and alumni donations. This strategy endeavors to give fair rankings by using both statistics and intangibles, which include elements “such as faculty dedication to teaching,” according to “U.S. News and World Report.”

The University of Dallas is “just about where all of our peer institutions are in terms of retention, graduation and selectivity,” Burk said, but she is “constantly looking for ways to improve, especially first year retention and graduation rates.”

The main priority, however, is to make the school as a whole better, rather than try to strategically boost ratings. The administration has taken steps to help students who have difficulties keeping up with the curriculum, by hiring a new counselor in the Academic Success Office, Brandon Jones.

Still, the University consistently falls short in one category for higher rankings: finance. UD’s endowment, at roughly $50 million, is relatively small compared to schools of similar size – although not, as Plotts pointed out, compared to those of similar age.

Financial resources and alumni-giving together comprise 15 percent of the “U.S. News and World Report” ranking system, and UD has difficulties measuring up to other institutions in those areas.

Burk said that this phenomenon is in part because “UD has produced graduates who take seriously the call to do good in the world” as opposed to focusing on making money and donating to their alma mater.

However, she reported that there are “members of the administration who are assiduously working to improve the financial situation.” Regardless of the ratings, Plotts insisted that “UD has always been really student–focused,” and always will be.

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