Juniata College has been recognized this week in two national publications’ annual reports ranking colleges and universities across the country.
In Forbes.com’s “America’s Top Colleges 2016,” Juniata College moved from 179th to 172 on the list and Money magazine listed the institution as 129th on its list of “Best Colleges.”
“The most critical piece of the Forbes ranking is the focus on student outcomes. It looks at what you are delivering rather than what you’re doing,” said Juniata College president James Troha. “The Money magazine ranking was good news for us, too, as we are listed as best buy. We compare very favorably as a private institution.”
Juniata was one of 660 colleges and universities nationwide to be rated in the Forbes.com rankings and one of 705 rated in Money magazine of the more than 1,500 four-year colleges and universities nationwide.
“People are looking at the value of the investment and wondering whether or not it’s worth it,” Troha said. “We’re actually a very affordable private institution, and some of the schools behind us are very, very good, well-known schools. It indicated we deliver great education for the value. Particularly on Forbes, we are rated pretty high on return on investment.”
Forbes.com based the polling used to compile its ranking on five factors, postgraduate success, student debt, student satisfaction, graduation rate and academic success.
“It’s a very hypercompetitive environment,” Troha said. “Whether or not we agree with the rankings or believe in them, we have to pay attention to them because we know prospective students are looking at how you compare.”
Although the rankings definitely indicate positive news for Juniata College, Troha said, in reality, they only play a part in the decision-making process for students and families.
“Ultimately, families and students are looking first of all to see if we have the kind of program that will help them to be successful,” he said. “If we do, they start to look at other things. They have to interpret whether it will be a good school for their academic experience and, if it’s in the ballpark, they might consider the rankings.”
Historically, Juniata College has moved around somewhat on the rankings, but much of that depends on the factors taken in to consideration when compiling the poll.
“We don’t do what we do to get better in the rankings. We provide the experience and the rankings are an outgrowth of that,” said Troha. “It’s an indication we are doing a good job with what we are doing. We stay true to our mission and we hope it’s recognized favorably.”
That favorable recognition, he said, is inextricably linked with the qualities that make Juniata College what it was created to be.
“It’s always been about clarity of mission. One of the really powerful things Juniata College has done over its lifespan has been that we know what we do and what we do well,” Troha said. “The personalization and flexibility we offer, all in a beautiful setting, with caring faculty and staff, has been a formula Juniata College has followed for a long time. The rankings reflect that authenticity. We’re not trying to pretend to be any other college or university. We want to be the best Juniata College we can be.”