September 9 marked another big day in the annual parade of college rankings in the media. The bell-weather rankings titled "America's Best Colleges" by "U.S. News & World Report," widely anticipated at this time each year, was accompanied by the almost simultaneous release by the "New York Times" of a new ranking titled "The Most Economically Diverse Colleges."
"While moving up in ‘U.S. News,' as we did this year, always pleases us, we are not satisfied with our ranking on the ‘New York Times' list," said Whitman President George Bridges.
The "New York Times" analysis points out how challenging the current landscape is in making college affordable for all students. To be included in the "New York Times" list, a college needed to have a high graduation rate. At 87 percent, Whitman's overall graduation rate significantly exceeds that benchmark. Importantly, graduation rates at Whitman do not vary widely when reviewing rates among ethnically diverse students or Pell-/non-Pell-eligible students.
Each year, Whitman provides more than $23.6 million in scholarship support to students from its own resources and 82 percent of Whitman students receive some form of financial aid. Whitman's concern about the affordability of college is reflected in its comparatively low tuition among the nation's leading private colleges: among the top 50 schools in the "U.S. News" liberal arts colleges rankings this year, Whitman's tuition is the sixth lowest (excluding the U.S. Service Academies). This combination of lower price and generous scholarship aid results in Whitman being listed very highly in various rankings that include a "best value" component, including "Forbes," the "Princeton Review," and "Money Magazine." These investments have also enabled Whitman to increase significantly American ethnic and international diversity on campus; today, nearly one in four students is either an American ethnic minority or an international student.
As the "New York Times" data reveal, even with these commitments Whitman is not as successful as it would like to be in enrolling students from low-income families. However, Whitman's comprehensive $150 million Now Is the Time Campaign is ahead of schedule in raising $50 million to endow scholarships for students.
"Scholarship fundraising will remain a priority for Whitman long after this campaign concludes, as we are deeply committed to providing access to the life-shaping experience that a Whitman liberal arts education provides," said Brad McMurchie '84, chair of the Whitman College Board of Trustees.
"A Whitman education is simply too important to be denied to any qualified student simply because she or he lacks the means to attend," added President Bridges.