SHELIA NJAU ’17
The U.S. News college rankings were released last week. Trinity placed 45th in national liberal arts colleges. This is a significant drop from last year’s ranking of 36th. For some, the drop could be a source of panic because of the potential repercussions that it signifies. It could mean that Trinity is becoming much less attractive to prospective students. For current students, the drop may affect the chances of applying to graduate school. It may even affect the job prospects that students have after graduation. While I agree that rankings are something we should be aware of, I think we should focus less on the negative aspects of Trinity and instead focus more on the many positive aspects of the school.
Trinity has maintained an intimate faculty to student ratio of 9:1. I think this is one of the key hallmarks of a great liberal arts college—the ability to actually get to know your professor instead of just being another face in the crowd. A majority of Trinity’s classes, approximately 60 percent, have fewer than twenty students and only two percent of classes have 50 or more students. Classes with 50 or more students are most likely introductory level courses. More times than not, if the student remains with that particular subject, they will go on to get to know the professor better over the course of the next four years. Another positive aspect of our school is the fact that Trinity has a 91 percent retention rate, which means that 91 percent of students from the first-year class return their sophomore year. So while Trinity may not be number one in the rankings, it’s still number one in the hearts of those students who return after their first year.
Furthermore, Trinity has made many improvements over the years, such as enhancing campus safety. The number of burglaries on campus dropped from 24 in 2010 to eight in 2012 and the number of cars stolen on campus went from 10 in 2010 to two in 2012.
Even with these positive attributes, it is hard to deny the facts and reasons why Trinity has by dropped swiftly in the span of one year. Joanne Berger-Sweeney mentioned that Trinity’s ranking has changed by 23 points over the past 10 years. President Berger-Sweeney stated that Trinity has falled in the rankings because there has been a decrease in the scores that the U.S. News Report uses to assess faculty resources, selectivity of students, levels of alumni donation, and how highly guidance school counselors rated Trinity.
In terms of how much alumni give back to the school, it makes sense if there is a fluctuation over the years due to a fluctuating economy at large—there will be some bad years and then there will be some that are good. If alumni do not give back each year, it may not necessarily be a matter of the alumni choosing to stop donating to Trinity, but rather it may be related to other external circumstances. The primary thing to do in this case is to remind the alumni of the reasons why they loved going to Trinity as a way to inspire gift giving. I think that hosting events such as reunions and Homecoming will work well to this end.
As for the other factors, I think time will make a large difference. On the subject of student selectivity, yes, Trinity may not be as selective as other schools, but I choose to see this as something positive rather than something negative.
In 2013, Trinity had an acceptance rate of 31.8 percent, but why should that be something bad? I like to think that prospective students should be given the chance to prove themselves in a more realistic capacity because test scores and grades do not always accurately predict a student’s potential success. The focus should be more on what the individual student hopes to achieve while in college. So yes, while Trinity has a higher acceptance rate than some other schools, it just means that there is greater diversity enriching our campus. The benefits of this go beyond the classroom and can actually provide more opportunities for people to grow.
I am not trying to downplay the fact that Trinity’s rankings have dropped. It is indeed a big deal. However, I think that when potential students visit, they will be able to see all the great things that Trinity has to offer. When current students apply to graduate school or look for employment, I think they will be able to talk about what they have learned at Trinity, not just academically but the ways in which they have grown holistically as well. In the long run, that is ultimately more important than the ranking of a school. As I said earlier, I think with time, Trinity will be able to rise in the rankings again due to the new leadership and the changes the school plans to make.