MU ranks 50th best value among private universities

Forget being the number one Catholic party school — that was so last year. Marquette is now rated the 50th best value among private colleges in the United States.

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine put Marquette right smack in the middle in its ranking of the 100 best private colleges. The No. 50 rank is an improvement from last year (this is the first year Kiplinger has ranked more than 50 schools), when Marquette was not ranked.

Jane Clark, senior associate editor and the article’s author, said in an interview “Marquette’s trajectory is in a good position,” and the university could easily move up to a better position in future rankings.

Tim Olsen, communication manager for Marquette, said the university is proud when organizations recognize its quality.

“We spend some time every year looking at the specific measures included in some of these rankings to get a sense of where others think we are doing well, and where we think we have an opportunity to do better,” Olsen said in an e-mail.

“At the same time,” he said. “Such rankings are just one factor that should be used in assessing a program or university.”

However, there are questions about the legitimacy of such rankings. Every year, numerous magazines and educational organizations rank America’s colleges using different criteria and come up with far different rankings. Colleges use these rankings for recruiting purposes and in attracting potential donors.

Scott Rex, an instructor of marketing, said rankings of colleges, cities and states are a common technique magazines use to gain publicity and reach new potential subscribers. He also said the rankings are mutually beneficial for the publications and universities.

“It’s really a pure marketing ploy by publications to get their name out there,” he said. “There is also an incentive not to rank like everyone else ranks.”

Rex said if a magazine is able to rank schools that are not commonly ranked highly, the publication is able to get publicity from a university and readership base that is largely untapped. At the same time, the schools obtain a certain sense of notoriety for getting their name in a magazine.

Clark, however, called Kiplinger’s rankings “absolutely scientific and objective.”

“The numbers are the numbers; you get what you get,” she said.

According to Kiplinger’s website, the magazine used criteria such as admission and graduation rates, total cost to attend the college, need-based financial aid, and the average debt at graduation to rank the colleges.

In Rex’s opinion, Kiplinger is not the most prestigious source for prospective students and families who scour the Internet for information on top-ranked schools because it is relatively new to the game.

“If I were a prospective freshman, Kiplinger’s wouldn’t be the first (magazine I looked at),” he said.

No matter what the ranking or magazine, Olsen said Marquette will keep striving to improve its academic standing.

“The rankings are a quick take,” Olsen said. “We learn what we can from them, but much of the work of building and maintaining Marquette’s reputation occurs in other areas, too.”