MU rose in the U.S. News and World Report annual ranking of Best Colleges and Universities released Monday.
The university jumped 13 spots from last year in the Best Value Schools Rankings, coming in at No. 72. Among national public universities, MU now ranks No. 12 for best value.
The report determines rankings according to several factors, including the percentage of all undergraduates receiving need-based scholarships or grants and the average discount from the school’s total listed price.
“We’re seeing our student federal debt load decrease, and that’s a great thing for students and parents,” university spokesperson Christian Basi said. “And I don’t think you’re going to see that many major public flagship universities can make that same boast.”
Only half of MU students graduated with debt last year, according to the MU News Bureau. The federal student debt load for MU students decreased to an average of $21,275.
The new rankings come on the heels of the university’s enrollment numbers announcement last month. As the Missourian previously reported, overall enrollment increased by 1% while freshman enrollment dropped 9%.
Nearby Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo. was awarded the No. 1 spot for best value among both public and private regional universities this year, and it ranked No. 6 overall among regional public universities in the Midwest.
Locally, Stephens College ranked No. 108 and Columbia College tied for No. 119.
U.S. News and World Report switched from yearly totals to a two-year average this year when calculating several categories, including student debt, according to spokesperson Madeline Smanik. The goal is to reduce volatility in school rankings from year to year.
“Sometimes there is not a definitive performance-based reason why a school’s rank changed,” Smanik said in an email. “Something seemingly minor – such as whether a school rounded up or down to create its overall score – could impact its rank by a number of places because of ties.”
The MU News Bureau credits the university’s rise in the rankings to several other factors beyond just the decrease in federal student debt.
“We have seen increases in our retention, graduate and job placements rates,” Latha Ramchand, MU provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs said in a press release. “But these are more impactful when the debt burden is reduced as well.”
According to the MU News Bureau, the retention rate climbed to 89% last year, and the 6-year graduation rate was 73%.
The university also improved its rankings among veteran-friendly campuses, moving from No. 99 to No. 73 in two years.
“We’re very pleased for that,” MU Veterans Center Director Robert Ross said. “It acknowledges the things that we’ve been doing and some of the things that we’ve been improving upon and over the last few years.”
The Veterans Center provides a wide array of services to student veterans, including priority registration, more flexible policies regarding withdrawal and readmission, tuition waivers for qualified student veterans and a 10% tuition waiver for distance learners.
“MU is on a bold, transformative trajectory, and these new rankings demonstrate the hard work of our faculty and staff to create the best possible environment for learning and research discoveries,” UM System President Mun Choi said in a press release. “We are not resting; we continue to aggressively push forward and improve so that we can ensure our students will be competitive in the global workforce.”