Whitman College is one of 20 hidden academic treasures in the country, according to a new survey by The New York Times of colleges and universities in America.

The report singled out Whitman from more than 2,500 four-year schools in the nation. The selections, compiled by Times national correspondent Randal Archibold from recommendations by a dozen education experts and counselors, reflect colleges that excel in academic standards, undergraduate teaching and established or rising scholarship.  

"If you are in the Northwest, people would almost always tell you (Whitman) is a premiere institution," said David Longanecker, executive director of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, who contributed to the survey.

Whitman was cited by the Times for its engaged faculty, aggressive recruitment of minority and low-income students, generous scholarships and three-dimensional educational experience.

"Every semester, the college finances trips to campus for 100 minority and low-income high school students, some of whom are offered full-ride scholarships," Archibold noted in his report.

In a separate interview with Whitman staff, Archibold expanded on the criteria for the study and the particular strengths of the college.

"We looked at schools with high academic standards as a starting point, but we didn't want a completely elite list," he said. "Whitman was mentioned over and over again by several experts."

In their study, Archibold and his advisers resolved to avoid "quantifying the educational experience" by rating schools using a point system.

"We were very conscious of not doing a U.S. News & World Report ranking system," he said. "We wanted our report to be nuanced and anecdotal, not mathematical."

By that barometer, Archibold added, Whitman "showed up on lots of people's lists for lots of compelling reasons."

In the end, Archibold said, the Times' list reflects schools that not only excel in academic rigor and depth but also possess "an individual style or signature" that set them apart from "the usual suspects"—the brand-name colleges and universities across the country.

"Whitman is a place that allows students to breathe in many ways," said Archibold. "It's a place where a student can shape a very individual learning experience in a rigorous academic environment."

Archibold's report echoes the findings about Whitman included in Colleges That Change Lives, a book by Loren Pope that profiles the "hidden gems" in American education: 40 oft-overlooked but exceptional colleges in the country.


Keith Raether
Office of Communications, Whitman College