US News and World Report ranks Maine schools among top colleges

Posted Sept. 13, 2013, at 2:52 p.m.
The interior of the new Lunder Pavilion at the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville. Colby was ranked No. 22 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best National Liberal Arts Colleges.
Colby College
The interior of the new Lunder Pavilion at the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville. Colby was ranked No. 22 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best National Liberal Arts Colleges.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Several schools across Maine are celebrating after receiving top rankings on U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 Best Colleges list.

This year’s installment offers data on nearly 1,800 colleges and universities, including tuition, acceptance rates, class sizes, graduation rates, and average debt of graduates, according to the publication. Eligible schools are ranked on up to 16 different factors, each weighted for importance.

Bowdoin College was ranked fourth on the list of National Liberal Arts Colleges, which includes schools that emphasize undergraduate education and award at least half of their degrees in the liberal arts fields of study. The Brunswick college was singled out for its small class sizes and high student retention and satisfaction rates. Bates College in Lewiston and Colby College in Waterville both were ranked No. 22, and College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor was ranked at No. 93.

The University of Maine at Presque Isle was named among the 50 Best Regional Colleges in the North, the 15 Top Public Schools in the North and the Top 5 Regional Colleges in the North for graduates with the least debt.

Linda Schott, president of UMPI, said Thursday that when she took over at the helm last July, she decided that she would resume filling out the survey that the publication requires in order to be ranked.

“I looked at the ranking as a way to see what we could work on,” she said. “I didn’t see it as a criticism. I saw it as a way for us to be ranked fairly in certain areas and then take that and see if we could improve on it.”

Maine Maritime Academy in Castine was listed at No. 7 on the list of the Best Regional Colleges in the North. The ranking defines regional colleges as schools that focus on undergraduate education but grant fewer than half their degrees in liberal arts disciplines. The University of Maine at Fort Kent was listed at No. 39, while UMPI and Unity College both were listed at No. 41.

Officials at UMFK said that they were pleased to receive the news.

“Our small campus has excellent teaching, actively engaged students, excels at student success, and is part of a dynamic community,” said Wilson G. Hess, UMFK president. “It is deeply rewarding to have that affirmed by an organization as distinguished as U.S. News & World Report.”

UMPI was listed at No. 13 in the top public schools ranking list for Regional Colleges in the North. The ranking defines public colleges and universities as those that typically are operated under the supervision of state governments and funded in part by tax dollars and subsidies from the state. Such universities often offer free or discounted tuition to students considered residents of the state.

In its third ranking, the university was short-listed among Regional Colleges in the North for graduates with the least debt.

Schott said that UMPI always has prided itself on its small class sizes and reasonable tuition, which she felt was reflected in the rankings. She felt that the rankings were a major source of recognition coming on the heels of a report released in May that university officials believe listed UMPI unfairly among five colleges with the lowest return on investment.

The University of Maine System’s flagship campus in Orono was ranked No. 167 among institutions in the National University category. Schools in this category offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and doctoral programs.

U.S. News & World Report has published its Best Colleges rankings since 1983. According to its website, the rankings provide an excellent starting point for families searching for the best academic value for their money and allow them to compare at a glance the relative quality of institutions based on such widely accepted indicators of excellence as freshman retention and graduation rates and the strength of the faculty.

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