Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

August 22, 2003

Whitworth Maintains Top-10 Ranking in U.S. News' America's Best Colleges 2004

Whitworth College is ranked sixth among 126 master's-level universities in the 15-state Western region in U.S. News & World Report's 2004 rankings of best colleges and best values. Last year the magazine, which annually rates colleges on academic reputation and quality, positioned Whitworth in a tie for fifth place with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and University of Portland in the best college rankings. This year Cal Poly was ranked fifth, with Whitworth in sixth place and the University of Redlands in seventh. The University of Portland dropped to eighth. In the best values rankings, Whitworth moved up from 11th in 2003 to 6th this year.

Whitworth President Bill Robinson says he appreciates the magazine's continued recognition of Whitworth's academic excellence, but he cautions students and parents against over-emphasizing the rankings when selecting a college.

"The rankings can be a useful starting point in identifying potential colleges and universities, but many other factors determine whether a school is a good fit," Robinson says. "I'll admit that the U.S. News rankings have helped us by recognizing the excellence of Whitworth's students, faculty, facilities and other aspects of academic quality, but they don't begin to capture the true value of the Whitworth educational experience or the remarkable things our students accomplish when they graduate. I think rankings probably do better at selling magazines than at proving who's better than whom."

The best college rankings, which were posted to U.S. News & World Report's website today (Aug. 22) and will be available in newsstands on Aug. 25, are based on various indicators of academic quality, including student selectivity, freshman retention, graduation rate, financial resources, alumni giving and academic reputation. Whitworth's freshman applications, freshman-sophomore retention rate and six-year graduation rate have all risen to record highs in recent years. The best values rankings are based on a formula that relates a school's academic quality to the net cost of attendance.

Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty Tammy Reid attributes these rising numbers to Whitworth's careful attention to its students, both while they are at the college and after they graduate.

"I think the U.S. News rankings help us analyze how effective we are in general areas," Reid says. "They don't help us directly with the most important questions, though, such as 'What kinds of experiences are Whitworth students having in classrooms and labs?' and 'How well do these experiences prepare them for life after college?' To get those answers, we pay a lot of attention to what students, alums, and employers tell us. And they tell us that our efforts are paying off."

Whitworth has seen a 70 percent increase in freshman applications since fall 2000, though the college seeks to control enrollment growth in order to preserve its low student-faculty ratio (14:1). In order to maintain that optimum ratio, Whitworth has become more selective in its admissions.

Dean of Enrollment Services Fred Pfursich says that increased faculty and student research, alumni achievements, strong presidential leadership and a string of seven conference athletics championships in the past two years have all contributed to the growing awareness of the college and heightened the demand for a Whitworth education. In addition, Pfursich says, students are attracted to Whitworth's scenic 200-acre campus, which has undergone more than $60 million in improvements over the past decade, and where a new 33,000-square-foot academic building is due for completion in fall 2004.

U.S. News & World Report has published college rankings since 1983 as an aid to students and parents in the college-selection process. The magazine categorizes schools by mission, and, in some cases, by region, then ranks them using a weighted composite score of up to 16 indicators of academic quality. The institutional categories used by U.S. News are based on the Carnegie Foundation's classification of higher-education institutions. The Carnegie Foundation changed its classification system in 2001, resulting in a number of categories being renamed and more than 200 institutions changing categories. Whitworth remained in the same category of institutions offering a full range of undergraduate degrees and some graduate degrees, though the category name changed from "Regional Universities" to "Universities-Master's."

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college enrolls 2,200 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs.


Tammy Reid, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3702 or treid@whitworth.edu.

Fred Pfursich, dean of enrollment services, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4348 or fpfursich@whitworth.edu.

Julie Riddle, public information specialist, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3729 or jriddle@whitworth.edu.

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