Proud Journey: Reflecting on new National Rankings

Spring 2013 Focus cover tilted       From Focus magazine, Spring 2013

By Tom Hackett
CSU Provost and
Vice President for Academic Affairs

As a proud alumnus of Columbus State University (B.A. 77, M.Ed. 85, when it was still named Columbus College), I must admit having felt a slight pang of jealousy in past years when U.S. News & World Report posted rankings for colleges and universities.

That's because my alma mater wasn't listed. The envy, on behalf of my institution, was aimed at those fortunate colleges and universities prominently featured in the U.S. News & World Report's annual Best Colleges publication, displayed prominently in the magazine section of my favorite bookstore and grocery store. Though I know national rankings by independent agencies do not guidebook in cloudsalways tell the whole story about an institution, even a cursory glance at the rankings told me that those colleges and universities who were "in the mix" were also those that commanded regional and national respect from the public in general and from high school counselors, parents, and, ultimately students who apply to those institutions.

Last year, for the first time, Columbus State University was ranked among the Top 50 public regional universities in the South by U.S. News & World Report. As if to punctuate that stellar achievement, U.S. News & World Report followed up by ranking our online graduate programs in business and education as 33rd and 34th, respectively, in the nation.

It's difficult to overstate what this means to someone whose association with this institution began in 1970 as a faculty member's oldest child, who began attending the institution in 1972.Provost Tom Hackett

Though these rankings did the trick in providing balm for this alumnus' ego, what is much more important is what such rankings mean to potential students, who are more discerning than ever as to the return on value of their college tuition. And as to how parents aid their children in this most important college-selection decision, rankings are crucial to their discernment of quality institutions. That makes these rankings of high value to those of us who support Columbus State University.

Students begin making crucial choices for colleges early in their high school career. Savvy admissions officers at selective institutions have long known this fact and work diligently to identify talented students as early as middle school. Once talented students are identified, those officials begin to market their colleges and universities to students (and their parents) by outlining the great college experiences available at their institutions and pulling out all the stops with marketing brochures with vibrant colors, personalized letters from senior academics and administrators with all marketing strategies "on message," citing tradition, institutional excellence, academics and other hallmarks of exciting campus life.

As school counselors, parents and students are all targeted by such marketing, it becomes more and more difficult for them to discern the quality of the college experience from such materials. Now it has always been true that students and their parents look to the traditional reputation of institutions as they make choices. Increasingly, however, they are looking to outside arbiters of quality. Because of its history in providing college and university rankings, the U.S. News & World Report rankings have attained a status where they influence decisions about which colleges and universities rate an application. Many educational institutions go to great lengths to ensure that they perform well on the metrics used by U.S. News & World Report to assign rankings because of the meaning of those rankings to those choosing institutions to which to apply.

It is in this competitive environment that Columbus State University has found itself ranked in the Top 50 Public Regional Universities in the South and among the Top 35 online graduate programs nationally in business and education. This represents a level of national recognition placing us in an upper tier of educational institutions. I have no doubt that more such recognition is on the way for my alma mater. But in the meantime, I'll pass the magazine section proudly, with an eye toward even better things in the future.
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 About Our Top 100 Ranking

  • "Best Colleges" rankings released last September by U.S. News & World Report put CSU among the Top 100 "regional universities" in the South for the first time.
  • U.S. News defines a regional university as offering a full range of undergraduate majors and master's programs.
  • Columbus State is ranked No. 91 in the South in the "Best Regional Universities" section of the magazine's Best Colleges 2013 guidebook.
  • Among public regional universities in the South, CSU ranks No. 46.
  • Regional university rankings are divided into four geographic regions: North, South, Midwest and South. • Ranking factors include assessments by top officials at peer institutions, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.
  • In ranking No. 91 as a "first tier" school among regional universities in the South, Columbus State tied with three other schools: Charleston (S.C.) Southern University, University of Louisiana at Monroe and the University of West Georgia. In the ranking of public regional universities, CSU tied with ULM and West Georgia at No. 46.
  • CSU President Tim Mescon welcomed the news, indicating he believes the university can climb higher in the rankings: "We will continue this relentless pursuit for perfection in all we do."
  • U.S. News & World Report offered its first "America's Best Colleges" report in 1983. Proud Journey By Tom Hackett CSU Provost and Reflecting on New National Rankings Vice President for Academic Affairs

About the Online Rankingsonline business badge

    • Columbus State learned in January that U.S. News & World Report had ranked CSU's online graduate degrees in business and education No. 33 and No. 34 respectively, compared to all others nationwide.
    • Highlights of the assessments are to be included in the magazine's Best Graduate Schools 2014 and Best Colleges 2014 guidebooks.
    • The online Master of Business Administration degree program offered by CSU's Turner College of Business was ranked No. 33 among 148 listed programs.education badge
    • Columbus State's online MBA is offered through the Georgia WebMBA consortium of six University System of Georgia business schools, all accredited by AACSB International (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business).
    • Columbus State's online graduate education program was ranked No. 34 among 143 listed programs.
      CSU offers an online Master of Education in curriculum and instruction (formerly known as an M.Ed. in accomplished teaching), a Master of Education in educational leadership and two Master of Arts in Teaching degrees — one designed for high school math teachers and another designed for high school science teachers.
    • Methods used in ranking online programs vary, but among the factors emphasized by U.S. News are student engagement; faculty credentials and training; student services and technology; admissions selectivity and a program's reputation among its peers.
    • U.S. News & World Report develops the rankings by conducting surveys among institutions and gauging performance in several areas according to responses from the schools. For the online graduate programs in business rankings, U.S. News surveyed 628 business schools. In looking at comparable education programs, U.S. News collected information from 679 education programs.